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.
Kim Blevins is a teacher-consultant with the Greater Kansas City Writing Project.
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