I have diffifulty with this as we are then saying it is o.k. to have this type of relationship and it could be easily abused by someone with other "ideas". Our school improvement council has put it into our school policy that there cannot be any of this type of communication. The only way they can email is to email to the parent's email and then the parent is the go between. Times are changing, however, and we will watch closely as this evolves, just want to keep our children as safe as possible.
You seriously have a policy in place that says, "The only way they can email is to email to the parent's email and then the parent is the go between." Really?? That seems like a policy that places very, very little trust in your teaching faculty.
I don't mean to start a flare here, but in order to "keep our children as safe as possible" have you considered telling them they shouldn't ride/walk, take the bus, or drive a car to school?? Because all of these activities, statistically speaking, are going to be alot less safe than trading direct emails with a teacher regarding a concept discussed in class.
Is it a matter of trust or establishing proper channels of communication? Besides, you want to encourage parents and students to communicate with the school don't you?
I mean I understand your response to "keeping the child as safe as possible" is derogatory to those teachers but it must mean it is the parent's responsibility to keep track of email correspondence from school. It more than likely means not a safety issue but an appearance of impropriety is averted by involving parents as "go betweens". Sounds rather clandestine if you ask me. :)
When asking if it is appropriate to have students as "friends" on a networking site, we must first define what we mean by friend. Is this a purely social relationship via facebook or myspace? Or is it simply a means for a teacher to help students with their schoolwork outside of the school day? If we are talking about a purely social relationship, then we must be very careful. However, I have had many students with whom I had a prior personal family relationship. For example, my children's godparents have three children, all of whom I have had in class. I have known them since they were babies...is it inappropriate for me to keep in touch with them via facebook? I wouldn't think so. However, it would be inappropriate for me to befriend a student for purely social reasons especially if there wasn't a previous personal relationship on which to base the online friendship.
Kay has a real point and the danger she's worried about is not merely theoretical. That's why this is all sad, to me. People will do things they ought not to do and this will, I believe, lead to all sorts of rules that interfere with the main thing. If I were still acting as a principal, I would think long and hard about what she's saying. I'm not at all cavalier about the potential for trouble that exists in all private communications with young people.
Nonetheless, a "friend" in MySpace is not necessarily a particularly intimate relationship.
It is important that teachers maintain an appropriate relationship with students--I'm uncomfortable with both "professional" and "distance" since the appropriate relationship with children, I think, is one of love. Our schools have become too bureaucratic to treat some young people with the care that they need, and our notions of professionalism have become entangled with bureaucratic processes that I don't find helpful.
I'm more interested in being a member of a real community and working with that community's children than I am in being a member of this or that professional guild. "Friend" comes closer to my ideal than "professional."
I think some kids you just can't understand without loving them first--love is a form of cognition. I admit that it's an easier relationship for me to figure out now that my own children are older than those I teach.
I suspect that the real solution is to have more people in those spaces, more eyes on the street, rather than abandoning them to the kids. . .but I suspect the model Kay suggests will in the end prevail. For good reasons. Sad.
I've developed good relationships with several students primarily because of online communications. These are perfectly appropriate and I would be perfectly comfortable having every single communication published in the local newspaper--a possibility that I always keep in mind. I just talked a kid into posting on our class Ning a very good but quite personal essay that he had first submitted to me on Word. He keeps to himself, and having him put his words out there was an important step, I think. It came about through an online discussion he initiated with about the movie Fight Club, (I had to borrow a copy and watch it--yuk) which was not directly related to what we'd been doing in class. Most of the discussion has been on the classroom Ning forum, so it's not private. I managed to overcome quite a lot of professional distance and talk to him more as a friend--an old friend, but a friend. He's a good kid, in an odd and tortured way, and it's fun figuring out how to love him better, so I can be useful to him.
Not unless it has to do with a specific project or assignment. I think it is not a good idea since it is a written record of contact and can be seen as something negative by others. I agree work life should be off limits to home life. I would never allow a kid in my house and the same goes for my online house. So no it is no a good idea.
This is an interesting topic and probably there isn't a one-size-fits-all answer.
We recently had a VIT official visit our school and tell us that we should not have a facebook / myspace etc and if we did we should be very careful about what we post as we are held 'professionally respsonsible' 24/7 in our current code of conduct! I actually have both (although I don't do much with myspace . . . ironically I created it because my students needed help in setting theirs up and I had to learn about it in order to help them!!) and I think the fact that it is a written record makes it completely transparent which, as long as you are using your power for good and not evil, should make it safe. I write comments on my student's work, their reports, letters to parents and references all of which need to be interpreted and could be held against me . . . if it comes down to it!
They also seemed horrified that students have our mobile phone numbers and vice-versa . . . until we pointed out that this information is readily available in phonebooks . . . and again, I say, part of what we do should be teaching appropriate use of technology and information!!
I live in a small community . . . I have known most of my students since they were babies . . . the lines between school, home and community are very blurred . . . we go to school together during the week, play sport together on the weekend, we share roles of responsibility on committees, and yes sometimes we even go to the same parties and social events . . . so at all times as a teacher and an adult I believe we are role models and as such have to be very careful in what we do and say . . . the same applies to my virtual life!
Like most of you, I do not 'friend' students or ex-students . . . when they request of me I question why they want to be my friend before I accept them and I do not accept all requests. I think about my real life relationship with all the people I know before I accept them as 'friends' in the virtual world . . .
This is easy.....No way, for no reason, ever! I have been teaching for 13 years. Wisdom is the greatest thing you gain along the way. Accepting students as friends on social networks is setting yourself up for disaster.
I joined Facebook this past summer after my son and his classmates graduated. Some of my senior class history students invited me to join several months earlier and didn't understand my declining their offers. As a teacher in a boarding school the lines are already blurry enough. We live and eat and work with our students. With our standing as in loco parentis our responsibility for our students does not end at 3:15 in the afternoon. The last thing I wanted to do was discover a party being advertised among the students and have to be the reason for breaking it up. Remember this was my son's class. Its hard enough having your parents as teachers!
Now that I am on Facebook I do not friend current students and I am very careful about the former students that I accept. Upper classmen in particular have problems with the boundaries between adults and students so meeting them as an equal in a social network is sure to only send them very mixed messages.
Having said this about social networks as social networks, I do use Ning for my history classes as a forum for discussing current events across the school population. We also use it to help students communicate with their peers about the topics and status of their research projects. Within this setting I reply publicly within our network and privately to students as it makes sense.
I think using something like Ning which is a platform students are familiar with from MySpace and Facebook for a sharing of ideas more involved than showing off a new hairdo or letting friends know where you will be on Friday night is exactly what we should be doing as educators. Social Networks can be powerful tools for sharing and expanding ideas and knowledge. I am hoping to expand beyond my own school as the next growth step for our current events forum to other schools. We've gotten beyond classroom walls next we hope to get beyond school walls.