Being unpopular and saying things people don't want to hear isn't fun. Neither is admitting you're wrong. Perhaps that is why this 5 minute speech I felt compelled to give was so hard for me.
I'm convinced that we've isolated students in a world without teachers on social media and every day we are reaping the consequences. We need to rethink this now so we can move forward to a better tomorrow.
Sometimes unpopular, uncomfortable things need to be said and positions should be reversed in order to do the right thing. Ultimately, my students said that I needed to give this one. I had at least eight kids who came up to me afterwards who said it was what educators needed to hear.
A teary eyed young man moved me most:
“My Mom died this year, I had a teacher who helped me get through it. I couldn't have lived without my teacher. Literally. We students need our teachers and sometimes we need to talk to them on social media. We need a way to do that sometimes.”
Yep. These kids are worth fighting for and if the only casualty is my own ego in the process, that is indeed a very small price to pay.
This is truly an issue where both sides are right. We have to face the truth of the consequences of what we've done. We have to come out with some sort of workable answer in the middle.
What is my new policy?
I tell my students that if they choose to friend me, I will friend them back but they need to know that I'm relating to them as a teacher. Anything they communicate to me is as if I am at school.
They can unfriend me at any time and refriend me — just as they wish, no questions asked. If they communicate anything to me, I keep screenshots (with time and date stamps.)
Don't headlong disregard your school policy. I would never ask you to do that. I do ask that you discuss:
- How would you feel if a student at your school reached out to a stranger because nobody at your school could connect with them?
- How would you feel if that student got bad advice or was harmed because no one at your school was allowed to help the child?
- Do you think many bullying incidents and other things happening on social media would be less likely to happen if students thought teachers might be connected?
- Do you think more incidents would be reported if students could friend and unfriend teachers?
- What would an educator “certified” or “allowed” to communicate with students via social media look like? Could this be a new role of guidance counselors?
- What do we need to advocate for from social media companies to allow such interactions to occur safely?
Be Somebody Because Nobody Won't Do
Best wishes, I hope you have a great day and I hope you'll be that somebody for your students. I also hope we'll consider if we've inadvertently isolated kids from those who can help and forced them to chat with strangers because we've given them nobody. I think we need a new age and new type of educator at each school and new ways to communicate with a generation who talks differently than we did.
Courageously consider if we've made mistakes. Discuss and good luck with this one.