Teachers in numerous Massachusetts cities and towns are not allowed to “friend’’ students on Facebook or other social networking sites, and a number of other school districts south of Boston are considering a similar ban.
For example The Boston Globe reported that many communities are working on policies governing school staff’s use of Facebook, “inspired in part by ‘model’ rules on the subject distributed this fall by the Massachusetts Association of School Committees.”
The Massachusetts Association of School Committees rules are designed for administrators to “annually remind staff members and orient new staff members concerning the importance of maintaining proper decorum in the online, digital world as well as in person.’’
Blurring the lines
Teachers should be reluctant to add students as friends on Facebook, as Facebook and other social media sites blur the lines in the student and teacher relationship.
Growing up, we knew nothing about our teachers. They were authority figures that didn’t seem to exist in the real world. If we ever saw a teacher in public, at a mall, wearing regular clothes, we fell into a state of shock!
Now, because of the personal information made available on teachers’ Facebook profiles, students know more than they should about their teachers’ personal lives. They know if a teacher’s relationship status is “Complicated,” and that over the weekend he “Partied like it was 1999.”
A necessary distinction
One argument against students and teachers establishing online friendships is the need for a distinction between personas in and outside the classroom, and a necessary distance between students and teachers, in order to maintain respect and define a teacher as “a role model, mentor, and advice giver – not a ‘friend.’”
Ultimately, the teacher-student relationship is all about guiding the student through a set curriculum involving reading, writing, arithmetic, and so on. This is and has always been a professional relationship, not a social one. Social media facilitates a social relationship. Call me “old school,” but it doesn’t seem right for students and teachers to connect in this way.