A Little Common Sense

Posted by on Dec 17, 2010

Kids and teachers are interacting. Everybody panic.

Unfortunately, too many are. Somehow, we’ve forgotten this is a cornerstone of being an educator. That a teacher’s role does not stop at the final bell. That a teacher is also a mentor, and sometimes that overflows into the hours beyond the given school day. And it’s been happening for decades.

Yet, somehow social media and electronic communications seem to suddenly change the landscape. Districts are scrambling to respond to what they fear is an inappropriate medium for teachers and students to use to interact. I’m not sure I get that.

Take, for example, the district I used to work for. They recently passed their social media and electronic communications policy, and the local paper reported it as, “Dist. 220 bans social media contact between teachers, students.” The problem is, take a look at their actual policy (5:135). It doesn’t. And it shouldn’t.

The logic cited behind banning such mediums is most often due to the danger and risk of inappropriate interactions between teachers and students. If that’s the case, then there’s a whole lot more banning that we need to do. Because what about the times when students stay after school to get help from a teacher? Or what about the times when students call a teacher’s classroom phone for help? Or what if a teacher tutors a student? Or what if a teacher bumps into a student at the local mall?

Each of the cases above have, at some point in time, resulted in inappropriate interactions between teachers and students. Yet, we’re reasonable enough to put policy in place that addresses the behavior but doesn’t ban all interaction. Because teachers and students need to interact. They must. And most teachers and administrators have the common sense to know how to put healthy boundaries and guidelines on such interactions. Guidelines that don’t require the entire ceasing of interaction.

I am aware that things are changing quickly with social media, and many districts feel the need to keep up with those changes. But before you put in a policy that might preclude your teachers from helping students by interacting with them in a medium that the students might prefer, consider that you might already have the policy you need in place. Take a good look at your policy, and I’m fairly certain you will find guidelines and expectations for teachers to interact with students in a professional, appropriate manner.

If you don’t, you have much larger potential issues than social media to worry about.

If you do, let those policies guide your teacher/student interactions, and let teachers keep doing what they do. Helping students when and where they need it.

Cross Posted on T&L Advisor Blog.


  1. Mary Feagley
    December 24, 2010

    I have been actively integrating Facebook with my high school English students this year and have had a lot of positive interaction with them. From messages (“you left your book in my room”) to assignments, I’ve enjoyed communicating with the students on their playing field!

    I’ve been setting up classroom groups to prepare for some group chats next semester (of my 60 freshmen, I’ve only got about 3 that aren’t on Facebook). We did a great senior Facebook project for the Canterbury Tales (the kids were motivated, imagine that?). I will also be fully integrating an iPad “lab” next semester.

    These new policies made me shudder. My district has been very encouraging. Should I be looking over my shoulder? (or at least not mentioning this policy trend?)

  2. Jennifer Keith
    December 24, 2010

    I agree with Mary. I find it invaluable to be able to have students get ahold of me and for me to remind them of things. As an English teacher at the high school level, I also direct plays and sponsor a class of sophomores. To quickly remind them to bring in fundraising things, to alert that practice is canceled, etc. where I know they will get it and I don’t spend all day trying to call…priceless. We need to meet kids where they are – yes, there are some who have inappropriate relationships, but they are those who would have them regardless of the forum. Banning anything is such a scary word. My school district is looking into a policy as well…but I agree. We have professional teaching ethics and they include interactions with students. Soon our policies will imply teachers need to stay holed up at home when not in the classroom, which is what some students think we do anyway. I never ask to “friend” a student, but I will accept their “friendship” online. I don’t know if that is recorded, but I give them my info at the beginning of the year and let them know that if they ask me to “friend” them, they know they are giving me access to all their stuff – updates, bad words, spelling, etc. pictures, and that as a member of the school district, it’s my job to report any issues where kids are being hurt, hurting others or hurting themselves, whether on or off campus. I still have 80% or more who request to be added.

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