Friday, December 24, 2010

Kids and teachers are interacting. Everybody panic.

In Ben Grey’s latest blog post A Little Common Sense, he provides smart insights into the fear the media, politicians, administrators, et. al. are up in arms about when it comes to digital communications between teachers/students. Makes a great story for the media and politicians use this as a issue to pull on the heart / fear strings of voters who they lull into a false sense of caution-then security. “We will keep your kids safe by banning them from communicating with teachers outside of class!” Cheers from the crowd! But when you think about it, does this make any sense? Aren’t teachers the people who spend the whole day with our children? Aren't they the ones we've entrusted with their safety? Why are we freaking out about those very people being there for our children using the communication tools of the day? You know the answer...

Because it makes a good story for the press and it serves as a great political platform.

We can’t make school policy based on the outlier stories of teachers who've engaged in inappropriate conduct. Their conduct is inappropriate, NOT the platform.

As Ben Grey shares in his post, “Somehow, we’ve forgotten this is a cornerstone of being an educator. That a teacher’s role does not stop at the final bell. That a teacher is also a mentor, and sometimes that overflows into the hours beyond the given school day. And it’s been happening for decades.”

When questioned why he uses social media to communicate with students rather than an alternate platform, Principal Chris Lehmann says, “Because it’s there. I’ll communicate with any student by whatever means they reach out to me.” As Grey explains, “Somehow social media and electronic communications seem to suddenly change the landscape. Districts are scrambling to respond to what they fear is an inappropriate medium for teachers and students to use to interact.” But, Grey goes on to say,

“I’m not sure I get that.”

He says, “The logic cited behind banning such mediums is most often due to the danger and risk of inappropriate interactions between teachers and students. If that’s the case, then there’s a whole lot more banning that we need to do. Because what about the times when students stay after school to get help from a teacher? Or what about the times when students call a teacher’s classroom phone for help? Or what if a teacher tutors a student? Or what if a teacher bumps into a student at the local mall?”

Exactly! When, why, how did the very people we employ to teach our kids and reach our kids become people we fear are interacting with our kids? To some it may seem just another incident of scapegoating teachers and ultimately making BANdates that are not in the best interest of kids.

Grey suggests that we put policies in place that address the behavior rather than ban interaction. He suggests this because teachers and students need to interact. And most teachers and administrators have the common sense to know how to put healthy boundaries and guidelines on such interactions. Guidelines that don’t require the entire ceasing of interaction. Sounds like common sense to me.

To find out how A Little Common Sense can go a long way, visit his entire post here.


  1. I use Schoology (an online course management tool that looks like Facebook) with my 6th graders. Yesterday I sent out a holiday message to the class through the site and within hours I had two responses back from students wishing me a happy holiday. This is how today's kids communicate. It used to be that a student would call a teacher on the phone to ask for advice or help. Now they text, IM and email or use social networking sites, so communication with teachers needs to evolve to where they are.

    This kinds of communication also helps foster closer relationships between teacher and student (especially when a student might be shy in class). In every classroom management book and every 'how to be a better teacher' text I've ever read, #1 on the list is 'get to know your students.'

    Let's face it. Inappropriate relationships with students has been going on for years. It is not a product of social media, so why are we acting like it is?

    Thanks for the thoughts and sanity, Lisa and Ben!

  2. Great thoughts, Lisa. A friend of mine went back to school to get an education degree. In one of her classes her professor said that he would be searching for each student on facebook and if he found out that they had a profile they would fail the class.

    This illustrates the lack of understanding regarding social media.