Katerine Sokolowski's recent blog post about world colliding as a parent and teacher continues to get me to think about my role in helping students navigate this brave new world of social media.
Most teachers did not grow up with social media and so our initial reaction has been to steer clear. Don't friend students. Don't put yourself "out there" for students to find us. That advice, in a way, has been somewhat faulty. Kids often make mistakes - it's a part of growing up. When we were growing up those mistakes were just mistakes. We'd dust ourselves off, maybe get grounded, and that was that. Today mistakes are made public and permanent by the things they post online and we're letting kids function in the Wild West without a sheriff. Bottom line: We need to be role models of good digital citizenship so our students don't lose out on college admissions opportunities, possible jobs, or even their future freedom if something they post on social media could possibly incriminate them. But what this post really helped me to see is that we shouldn't just be lecturing to students about this. We should also be living it.
Many of my students follow me on Instagram. I could have chosen the moment when students started following me to panic and set my account to private. But in the end, I decided that this was an opportunity for me as their teacher to show them what it is to be a good digital citizen. So my students follow me, and as a result, I pander to that audience. I post book recommendations, I share with them my reading life, and I also give them a glimpse into my daily life as well: posting pictures of favorite recipes I've made, my journey with buying my new piano last year, and pictures of my dogs. As a result, I think it has helped get students to trust me more. To see that I'm just a regular person who does regular things. If they were looking for something scandalous by following me, they ain't gonna find it here. So they came for the scandal but stayed for regular old boring Mrs. Shaum (well, some of them stayed. I think some of them un-followed me after they realized they weren't going to find anything gossip-worthy on my Instagram feed).