It’s almost the end of the semester, and as one colleague wrote in an email last night, “all we have to do is outlast the students.” I’ll have to eek out every last reserve of energy just to do that; I’m plum tuckered out.
But I will say that the end of the semester does give me some great stuff. First, I get to see how much my students have progressed through the portfolios they put together. They pull together their best work and write commentary on it. These are always my favorite things to grade – they remind me how much they’ve improved and encourage me that I’ve actually taught them something. Secondly, my creative writing class has gelled into something resembling a community. We’re emailing each other; the students are working hard on their writing (and producing some really good stuff, I might add); and all in all, I think, if nothing else, this class has shown all of us how much we need each other in this writing world. Finally, the semester’s end gives me summer . . . and this time I’m not teaching. Gloria, hallelujah.

This morning’s post on BookNinja got me thinking about another aspect of teaching – the privacy and decorum concerns that come with this role. Apparently, young teachers (and probably older ones, too) have been forgetting that the Internet is a public space, one where people can see what they do, a spot where their students can find them. It seems these teachers are posting crude, sexual, and otherwise not student-aware content on the web. Eeek!

While I would certainly support people’s right to say what they want, I would not support these teachers because this isn’t a matter of free speech – it’s a matter of modeling appropriate behavior for our students. When I post things on this blog or on my Facebook page or anywhere else, I’m hyper-aware that my students might see it, might even seek it out. And I censor myself (no one has to censor me) with them in mind. That doesn’t mean I don’t say what I think or criticize when I feel appropriate, but I do curtail my personal content a bit for two reasons: 1. To be an effective teacher, I have to maintain some distance from my students. They are great people, but they are not my friends (something I told my creative writing class last semester and was teased about incessantly). 2. I expect them to behave well and appropriately in my presence and in the presence of their classmates and other academic officials. There is, fair or not, a standard of behavior for school, and so I try to follow that standard even on the web. I don’t show up late for class; I don’t wear tube tops when I teach; I don’t swear like a sailor when giving a lecture; and I don’t post sexual content of myself on the web – all these seem to be of the same ilk to me.

I wish my students would do some of the same. I love being their “friends” on Facebook. But I hope they know that as their “friend” I can see their break-up status, their keg stand photos, their video clips, and even snippets of their conversations with friends. None of this changes the way I grade them, but it occasionally (when I’m not super-vigilant) does change the way I look at them. Imagine how they would look at me if I put a picture of me with a bong on Facebook (students, I do not have any pictures of me with a bong – so don’t ask;)).

What do you guys think about these ideas? Should teachers be able to post whatever they want on social networking sites or their own private webpages? Chime in at will.