Should Teachers Have Students as Facebook Friends?

My answer to this question is a categorical no.  Whilst my own teachers were generous with their time, even giving out their phone numbers (when I was in 12th grade) to offer help after hours, this sort of generosity is now just plain unprofessional.  Teachers should not accept invitations to be Facebook friends with their students, nor should they be giving out their phone numbers.

It seems that this issue is a concern around the world.  A study was recently conducted in Ontario, which featured the following recommendations:

A report, to be released Monday, recommends teachers neither accept — nor send out — Facebook friend requests involving students. They should avoid texting, and never communicate by email using a personal account, says the advisory from the Ontario College of Teachers, the body that oversees the profession.

Online communications should be via “established education platforms” such as web pages set up for a school project or class, says the report, obtained by the Toronto Star.

Teachers should also only contact students electronically during the same times they’d feel comfortable calling home.

“When we are communicating with students, face-to-face or in more traditional ways, we are trying to replicate that in other media,” said Michael Salvatori, the college’s registrar.

“The informal language of texting is not the kind of interaction a teacher and student would have … there are lots of ways teachers can be available for students without texting.”

The report comes as school boards try to figure out how to create rules around the use of social media, without hampering efforts by educators to engage students by using it.

And, increasingly, just as in their real life, teachers’ conduct online is also coming under scrutiny. Recently, in the U.S., teachers have been suspended for posting inappropriate comments on their personal Facebook pages, on their own time; one said he hated his job and students, another compared herself to a “warden” supervising “future criminals.”

This is only the third advisory the college has ever issued, and it will follow up with information sessions around the province this month and next.

Few school boards have a social media policy as yet, trusting to general guidelines around teacher and online conduct to cover it for now.

That’s because social media has exploded in the past few years, said Paul Elliott, vice-president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, which put out a pamphlet for teachers on the issue a while ago.

It’s the newly graduated teachers who tend to have a tough time at the start, he added.

They’ve been active on Facebook, and they are moving into a profession where behaviour that wasn’t considered objectionable before is now inappropriate — such as posting a picture enjoying a beer with friends, he said.

As for texting, it can sometimes prove “a useful tool of communication in the classroom, with the curriculum — but that’s the only time it should be in use,” he said.

The college has also warned teachers that anything they post online can be altered, and that “innocent actions” can be “easily misconstrued or manipulated.” The report cites several disciplinary cases, albeit extreme ones, where emails or other online communications were involved.

There is no good reason for a teacher to be communicating with students through Facebook or any other forms of social media.  While I respect and appreciate my teachers for giving me the opportunity to call on them after hours with queries or concerns, I don’t think the current day teacher should be allowed to do the same today.  Teachers must be responsible and careful in their dealing with their students.  There is nothing responsible about being a Facebook friend with your student.

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5 Responses to “Should Teachers Have Students as Facebook Friends?”

  1. J Roycroft Says:

    I would be suspicious of any teacher wanting to communicate with my child outside the normal school day. This is poor judgement on the part of an educator.

  2. Margaret Reyes Dempsey Says:

    In this crazy world, it’s only a matter of time before having students as Facebook friends backfires in your face in a big way. Best to keep your personal life separate from your professional life.

  3. Michael G. Says:

    Thanks J Roycroft and Margaret. It’s so sad that some teachers think it is alright to be Facebook friends with their students.

  4. Daniel Says:

    Facebook is something that is not going away. If done professionally, Facebook gives teachers a great way to communicate with students and be a positive role model. I do not accept friends on my Facebook, but I am considering creating a professional account that can be used in that manner.

  5. 'dqaf Says:

    I think teachers should be able to share “What’s on their mind” on facebook with their students as friends because they’re not harming anyone and it’s outside of school so anything they post shouldn’t be held against them!

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