It's all over the news today about the bill in Missouri that would outlaw teacher-student messaging on Facebook. It lumped us in with all the people who use Facebook to abuse children. Nice. FIrst of all, is anyone else offended to be assumed to be a pervert if speaking to students on Facebook? I am.
I searched "Teachers and FB" and got some interesting hits, depressing ones- teachers who let down their guard or posted idiotic statuses in a weak moment. I can't ever see myself posting that I would like my classes to die which is what one New York teacher did. She also said that her classes had been spitting and kicking each other so it had been a really bad day. I don't know if she's a good teacher or not. I do know that I have thanked God for those teacher friends that I could talk to after one of those days, and they happen to all of us at one point or another. But I don't think I would post it on Facebook. Perhaps they forget that it's like holding a microphone and think it's like a telephone.
I have a "student" page that is open to the world. I have no problem with this whatsoever, although that would seem to be more of a security risk than allowing only students and parents to see it; that's our school policy. I don't use it for class. I could take it down and be okay with that.
However, I don't like the government legislating that it is against the law for me to talk to a student in a message. What about those times when the student needs a friend? If texting and messaging and calling all become illegal what about the good teachers who are there for their students? Who help them cope with abuse? Or help them fill out a FAFSA and college apps and maybe take them on a college visit? What if parents are unaccessible for some reason? Wouldn't most people want teenagers to have access to a caring adult who has their best interest at heart than no one? Or just other teenagers?
Don't get me wrong. I don't message students normally. I have texted and messaged my journalism students to remind them of something but I don't butt into my students' lives. Sometimes however, I am pulled in by the student. I'm just trying to figure out what to say when this human being needs a listening ear of someone who cares and it is against the law for me to do so. I guess we could go back to notebooks, or is that wrong too? Do we just lecture and show our Powerpoints and ignore the problems that these young adults need help understanding? I can't.
Like it or not, FB and texting is the way this generation communicates. If we legislate caring, responsible, normal adults out of that environment, I think we are casting those teens adrift to solve their own problems. I, for one, want to be there if a student needs me. I hope the state figures out a way to continue to allow these "good exchanges" to take place.
I was a good teacher before the National Writing Project. I am still a good teacher. I care about the kids, always have. I try to have a sense of humor and connect, still do. I try to get the students engaged and working on project that stimulate their brains, so what changed?
I had taught for seven years when I attended the Summer Institute of the Ozarks Writing Project. I knew I was a good teacher but not an effective writing teacher. I wanted to be but had no idea how. Through the four-week intense seven-ten hours days of work in the Institute I found out. I became a writing student myself. I freewrote, I researched. I wrote as a student does in class by being a participant in my fellow teacher's demos. I wrote and wrote and wrote and found out what writers need. Writers need to talk sometimes, especially in a small writing group dedicated to helping them find the "holes" in their writing. Writers need choice. Writers need an authentic audience. Writers need time. Writers don't go through six steps in a row of the writing process; they cycle back and forth constantly. Writers revise, and revise and revise before they ever worry about a misplaced comma.
I also became a teacher-consultant through the Ozarks Writing Project. I have presented twice at Write to Learn, our statewide language arts conference. I have written a youth novel by participating in National Write a Novel month. I have started two websites and am beginning another book called "The Organic Teacher."
I have acquired a network of caring, dedicated, insanely intelligent educators to bounce ideas off of, learn from and emulate through NWP. I have found my voice, my passion, and feel like I'm almost an effective writing teacher. There's always room to grow and I'm ever-learning.
NWP needs funding. It's important today and tomorrow, for our students and our nation.
Kim Blevins is a teacher-consultant with the Greater Kansas City Writing Project.
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