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Separate Spheres – They’re Trying to “Friend” Me on Facebook

by Neil Finney

Facebook is everywhere – including our classrooms. Students are supposed to be at least 13 years old in order to sign up for a Facebook account – but that isn’t hard to get around. Truth is, many of our intermediate students know about it, are using it, and carry out their social lives through it – whether they are 13 or not. But what happens when they want to add their teacher as a “friend?”

Maintaining separate spheres of “you as a teacher” and “you as a person” is so important to your career and the way you present yourself. We all want our students to like us – but “friending” them on Facebook will not achieve this. In fact, it could lead to other problems down the road.

Keep in mind that your friends on Facebook have access to your entire profile and things posted. That means anytime you post personal photos or status updates – your “friended” students will see it. Do you really want your students to have access to your family photos and status updates about what you’re doing on the weekend?

Even if you are not friends with your students, they may still be browsing through your personal information. To avoid this, make sure you lock down your privacy settings.

 How to check and secure your “Privacy Settings” in Facebook:

  1. Log in to your Facebook account.
  2. Click the arrow in the top-right corner of the page.
  3. Click “Privacy Settings”
  4. Under the “How You Connect” heading, click “Edit Settings”
  5. Any category that says “Everyone” can be changed “Friends” (only your approved “friends” have access to seeing your page).

Students have a curiosity about their teachers and those in the intermediate grades, especially, want to show you how grown up they are. But, allowing them to “friend” you sends the message that you want to give them access to all parts of your life – not just the teaching side. Be clear with your students about the boundary between home and school – you should have a life outside classroom walls that is private.

Grab hold of what can be a teachable moment. Share your Facebook page with your class – just this once. Walk them through your main page. Explain to them why you don’t “friend” students. Being honest and transparent with them will earn their respect and put an end to them searching for you or trying to add you as a friend.

Are you “friends” with students on Facebook? Would you consider showing students your Facebook page in class?

Image(s): FreeDigitalPhotos.net

During Neilʼs 9 years of teaching experience, he has taught in London, England; Ontario; public and private schools; elementary and secondary; junior; intermediate; core french; developmental skills; and now junior gifted (grades 4,5,6). He is a Reading Specialist that has been incorporating technology in his practice consistently throughout his career. Neil has recently published his first book entitled “Ignite. Incite. Inspire.” – Examining 21st Century Issues in Education, which is a collection of teaching articles and posts written from January to December 2011.

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