I just read this article in the Houston Chronicle, and it’s got me in a tizzy again. Just reading that a teacher’s union representative would say this drives me crazy:
Gayle Fallon, president of the Houston Federation of Teachers, said she would advise members to avoid connecting with students on social-networking sites, though the Houston Independent School District doesn’t have a specific policy about it.
“Ninety percent of the time it would be OK,” Fallon said. “But what do you do with that one whose parent goes nuts: ‘What do you mean you’re my kid’s friend?'”
I’ll tell you exactly what I would say to that “nutty” parent. First, I would point out that we teachers are human beings and members of the community in which our students live. I am just as likely to bump into a student at WalMart as I am to see them online. What makes the latter more dangerous (to the student and to my career) than the former? Lots of child molesters troll for victims in public places, so what makes them safer than public social networking sites? If you watch your kids at the supermarket, why don’t you monitor them online?
Second, I would remind the parent that making a connection with a student has been shown to be one of the most important factors in academic success for that student. If a child feels that the teacher cares about him, he learns more. It’s that simple.
Third, I would ask the parent why there is an assumption that contact online is inappropriate. What educated adult in this era of digital records would believe that he or she could write something improper to a student on a social networking site and not get caught? Call me naive, but shouldn’t you assume that a teacher has the best intentions until you see otherwise? Why do you thank me profusely for phoning your child to see if she is okay after being out sick for several days, but assume that an electronic copy of the same message is laced with sexual innuendo?
Fourth, How am I supposed to find a good babysitter in a pinch from amongst the plethora of qualified former students without Facebook?