Several months ago I blogged about the Acceptable Use Policy of the Future. Today I turn my attention to a related topic, the use of social media by faculty to communicate with each other, parents, and students. Here’s what I would like to suggest that school administrators consider as a policy statement:
Social media, including but not limited to services such as Facebook, Linked-In, YouTube, and Twitter are powerful learning, collaboration, and communication tools and should be judiciously employed by all faculty and staff in the pursuit of teaching excellence, professional development, the promotion of school activities and events, remaining current with educational trends, and understanding of how youth use technology in their daily lives.
What, exactly, are we so afraid of with these tools? I posit that one fear might be the apparent “loss of control” in our classrooms and our school messaging. Another might be the blurring of personal and professional boundaries.
Both of these suppositions, control and boundaries, are illusory.
The degree to which teachers are in control of their classrooms is based entirely on the power granted to them by students. No doubt you have all witnessed “out-of-control” classrooms, and perhaps you have even been in one. What this normally refers to is students “acting out,” out of their seats, yelling or screaming, or perhaps non-responsiveness accompanied by sullen, disdainful glares at the teacher. Students always have this power, the power to not go along with the teacher’s plan.
As for personal boundaries, such things are already blurred. Take teachers who also act as coaches or club advisors and spend significant time with students outside of class, or who advise students on personal issues. Teachers who ask students to babysit their children, or whose own children are enrolled in the school in which they teach. What teacher hasn’t noticed how students perk up when they tell them personal stories from their past, or even about what is current in their lives such as the birth of a child, an upcoming vacation, or even a date they went on over the weekend.
So the debate is not about how much classroom control teachers have (only what is granted to them), or about rigidly compartmentalizing our personal and professional lives (they are already porous), but it is about using the tools available to us to be more effective educators in and out of the classroom. It is, as it always is, about communicating with students and the ability to bridge the gap between our lives and their lives to find common means of understanding important content and life lessons, about guidance and wisdom, deep listening and even deeper questioning.