My husband and I are both teachers. We have not joined Facebook due to being apprehensive about having students as 'friends' - we have seen some colleagues get in to sticky situations as a result. What are others' experiences? Are we missing out or being wise?
I am friends with some former students; but only students I taught more than three years ago, who are out in the "real world" as adults. I have a policy of not being friends with current students or those who are still enrolled at the school where I teach. Generally I have not experienced any negative repercussions. I'm pretty open about who I am in general, though, so I doubt my students find out anything terribly surprising.
When I finally did give in and create a facebook page, I found that many students were very proactive about contacting me (sometimes just to say "hi" others for questions on homework). For many students this is the only thing they do (no email, etc). Previous students have found me and asked for reference letters or help on college essays. It has ended up being a pretty cool connection for me, despite my original fears.
This issue has become huge in my school district. One of the first in-service meetings at the beginning of the school year was in regards to Facebook. We were told that under no circumstances were we to be friends with our students on Facebook and that in several days, some teachers would be losing their jobs because of Facebook-related problems (I don't know if that ever happened or not). Last Wednesday at our faculty meeting, my principal again brought up the issue and said that teachers should not "friend" their students.
I'm not on Facebook. When it first became popular, I did think about setting up a profile but just never got around to it. I spend so much time on the computer for work and with answering e-mails, that Facebook didn't/doesn't appeal to me. My former students have seemed to have no problem e-mailing me through my school's website; so I keep in touch with them that way. One thing that I have noticed this year is that many of my students are moving away from Facebook. It's lost its appeal with many of them, or they've gotten tired of all the drama that is associated with it and their age group.
Of and on, I had still thought of setting up a profile because I really do love technology, but then my cousin who works for the FBI in one of their terrorism units near Detroit told me that he had attended a two-day seminar about Facebook and personal/national security and to get off Facebook if I was on it because it just doesn't have the security features that the FBI would like it to have to prevent hacking, identity theft, and terrorist use of personal information. This seems a little extreme to me, but I still haven't developed enough interest in Facebook to set up an account.
As Aunt Lori said, FB is a wonderful tool to maintain contact with FORMER students after they are out of your classroom. I have found in situations of travel or need, FB has been a tremendous networking tool.
I would recommend that if you do partake in behaviors that would present you as questionable, you keep your distance from FB. People can take pictures of you and "tag" you and then anyone can see that. If students' parents are a friend of one of your friends, you never know who will get a glimpse of you doing something you wouldn't want them to see.
I just moved a thousand miles away, and I didn't enter the Facebook world until after I moved. I am FB friends with former students and enjoy it immensely--until I see things I'd rather not see come through on my newsfeed. Then I just get discouraged, but it generally doesn't last. Older, adult former students are a delight, however. I, too, refrain from anything beyond random observations about life on my status updates, and very little information about me is available on my FB page. One of my colleagues has a rule that she won't friend anyone unless they're a senior or older. I won't "friend" anyone I didn't have in class--even the younger siblings of former students whom I know very well. Just doesn't feel right, though it would probably not pose a risk to me in any way. I, too, would encourage you to jump in--I have been so blessed by re-connecting to former students, in particular. Makes me feel as if all that "seed-planting" I (along with others, of course) did has come to delightful and productive fruition. Set your guidelines and go for it!
I don't "friend" students until they are no longer in a position to ever take one of my classes again (that is, until they're out of school). After that, I assume that they are adults and so I just treat them as I do any of my other FB friends. Of course, I teach in a really small district and so it's not as formal a setting with as many of the pitfalls that seem to abound in the bigger, more affluent areas.
I really value having ex-students on FB because it allows me to keep in touch and because, every now and then, someone says something to me that's really touching and that I hadn't known (in terms of how I'd impacted them).
I reserve my FB page for family and adult friends; some of my adult friends are former students who are now professional people with families of their own. I enjoy keeping up with them and sharing their family photos. For a while, I thought about having a teacher/student FB page to further communication, but I decided on a different approach.
My schools subscribe to Blackboard where grades and supplementary materials are posted. There is a discussion feature on Blackboard that allows my students (and me, of course) to post questions and comments and to respond to each other's postings--an ongoing class conversation. This has become my class "FB page" with some excellent benefits. Students who are too shy to ask questions in class, regardless of constant encouragement, will ask questions on the page, and I've been so pleased with the kindness class members extend to each other in discussions. This has been great for class morale and camaraderie. There have been no problem postings in terms of content, tone, or language; students know they are writing on a school site, and that alone reminds them to behave!
All sage advice. Another good rule of thumb is simply don't post anything on facebook that you wouldn't want the whole world to see. I only use my facebook status updates as affirmations for myself and others. This sends a positive message to anyone reading it. However, in all honesty since my bulldog Stella has her own facebook page, my students are more interested in being her facebook friend anyway.
I must admit that I have a policy of not having anyone as "friends" who I am teaching or will teach. For me, it just gets to messy - I need to be separate and objective and I don't necessarily think you can be a "friend" with a student in any sense of the word because it confuses your role and makes it harder to do your job better.
However, like #2, I have lots of facebook friends whom I have taught, and I love keeping in touch with them. It is great to hear how they are getting on and to hear their success stories as they go on into Higher Education and get jobs. So pros and cons...
Ah, the benefits and drawbacks of new technology. I am a teacher, and I am on Facebook. I do enjoy it, in that it really allows me to keep in touch with so many friends and relatives all over the world, that I wouldn't ordinarily be able to.
But as a teacher, in our modern litigious world, an extra measure of common sense guidelines and content, I feel are in order. Facebook has a great set of privacy controls, in that almost all of your content you can set for only certain people, or no one at all, to see. This includes any photos. So if I don't want any former students to see me with a glass of wine in my hand at a dinner party, I can make sure they don't.
I also make it a rule that, under no circumstances, will I "friend" a student, or anyone under the age of 18 I'm not related to. I don't use my status updates as a diary, I don't include a lot of personal information on my page, etc. This might all seem like common sense, but you'd be surprised what some people put on there.
I'd say about 70% of my "friends" are former students who got back in touch with me at some point, and that's been very fun to see where they ended up and what they were doing. I've also gotten scores of appreciative comments about my teaching from particular students, many of which I would never have known I had made an impression on. That has been very rewarding. I haven't had a single serious issue come up that has caused a problem with a parent or work.
I'd advise you both to jump in on Facebook, just develop yor own common sense rules and you should have no problem.
I am a teacher and was reluctant about have students on my facebook page. I decided that I would not allow my students as my friends until after they have graduated. It is really nice to see what my past students are up too and how they have succeed in college, life etc... I often get emails that say thanks for being such a great teacher...or telling me what they are up too etc...It allows me to know that I did a good job as there teacher.
I have a Facebook, but like many others, I keep it just for friends and family.
My students are all still young, so none of them have contacted me and wanted to be my friends yet. A few years down the line when they've all graduated and moved on, if they request me (if they even remember how to spell my last name - it's a long, complicated one!), I'd consider accepting them.
Facebook isn't a diary - it's a place to share recent important events in my life or share pictures that I've taken on vacation and such, but I avoid getting too personal. My rule of thumb: if I wouldn't want my mom or grandma to read/see it, it shouldn't be posted/uploaded.