A few years ago, I became the ultimate Me Monster and started a Facey Face page for Mrs. Mimi.(That's Facebook for most of you...thank you Rebecca, my internet BFF, for the genius term "Facey Face".) I love me some Facey Face. Talk about the ultimate tool for Procrastination. I also have my own personal Facebook page that I use for virtual eavesdropping - seriously, people post some insane stuff as a status update. While I don't always understand why we need to know you had a flat tire on the highway today, I usually find these updates to be pretty entertaining and/or a great distraction from my pile of work.
However, due to some really poor decision making, Facebook has meant the end of some teachers' careers. I know some peeps are on the up and up when they friend current or former students - they want to stay in touch and hear how former friends are flourishing. I get it. Buuuuutttt....methinks it's a slippery slope and pretty much a bad idea.
My recent dilemma:
Several former students from The Best Class Any Teacher Has Ever Had EVER friend requested (is that really a verb now?) on Facebook recently. I LOVED these kids. LOVED. Like take them home and keep them forever love. I wanted to friend them (seriously, I can't believe I'm repeatedly using "friend" as a verb), I wanted to see their pics, read their statuses, make sure they were okay and being responsible consumers of social media, but there was something holding me back from clicking "accept." A feeling in the pit of my stomach, kind of like when I eat too many wings...
I didn't accept their request. But for the next few days, the whole thing bothered me. Am I virtually rejecting them? They were so important to me and I'd like to think I was important to them, important enough to friend request at least for whatever that's worth. All that being said, I still didn't want them to have access to a picture of me with a glass of wine or see something that someone wrote on my wall that may stray from appropriate. These kids are still not adults. Clearly The Mimi is cool and hip and all that with social media, but this territory feels foreign with my little friends.
I know some teachers have separate Facebook accounts for their teacher selves that they tightly control, but frankly, I don't need another social outlet or alternative self to monitor. So what did I do? I accepted their friend request to get access to their email address. I sent them an email explaining why I felt uncomfortable being friends with them on Facebook and gave them my personal email address so that we could stay in touch. Then I promptly unfriended (defriended?) them. I'm so hoping they'll email.
I think there are so many possibilities to use various social media and other online resources in our classrooms. Actually, I think there is a NEED to do that, so we can create and develop responsible and digitally literate little friends. (Granted, this means having computers in your classroom that are NOT loaded with Logo Turtle and, you know, actually turn on.) And I'm someone who embraces these tools for my work with adults, but with kids....I go back to having that too-many-wings feeling in the pit of my stomach.
Maybe this is a topic we can take on as a little community. Discuss and share ways to incorporate these new tools rather than shun them. Think about how we can set up ground rules that not only make these tools truly useful, but also teach our friends how to be critical users as well. I know there are some of you out there who don't have enough pencils, books or even desks...so what do we do? How do we move forward and stay current?