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Monday November 20th 2017

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What To Do With Former Students’ Friend Requests

With my first batch of seniors safely across the stage, I am now faced with the toughest call of my teaching career thus far:

Do I friend former students?????

In the last couple weeks, friend requests have been flooding into my facebook profile, all of them from young adults who are now former students of mine. The first dozen or so were rejected without much thought. They were the same ones who had tried to friend me while I was still their teacher, and were just as quick on the draw once they had graduated. It was too soon, and to me they were still students.

Then it happened: Last night I approved my first former student.

I don’t know if it is because time is passing, as it always seems to do when we’re not paying attention. Maybe I’m beginning to let them go. Subconsciously they are slipping away into adulthood, and I no longer see them as little kids. Whatever the reason, in that moment it felt okay, but today I’m not sure what to think.

All I know is I’ve got a bad feeling.

Nothing happened right away. Satan didn’t appear above my computer-screen, laughing from the belly. The FBI didn’t start knocking on my door. All was quiet on the facebook front, and I continued my online life.

Of course now I am second guessing myself, and wondering what the significance of that fated click will be. How will my web world change now that I have students peeking into its inner workings? For so long I have tried to be a mentor to so many kids (hundreds at this point, soon to be in the thousands). During the work-day I try to appear responsible, professional, and, well, a proper urban role-model. Sure, sometimes I rock Airforce 1s and other times I wear my hats straight-billed and cocked to the left, but even so, I try to emulate what a successful adult looks like who was born in the ghetto.

One of the things I cherish most in my professional life is – well – my private life. I like having my degenerate friends to fall back on when I just need to cut loose. I like posting profanity laced updates when the referees blow every single call in the world cup. I like talking a little smack to my friends when they send a cheesy love post to their significant other, forcing us all to have to read it in our News. I just like not having to be a role-model sometimes. I may be thirty, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like to get a little crunky.

But with this recent late-night, champagne induced decision (It was my wife and I’s two year anniversary), what I have done is connect my professional life with my private one, something I thought I’d never do.

Of course, facebook has slowly been taking away my privacy for months now. Last year I started adding my mother and her friends. I don’t remember what I had been drinking when I made that decision, but it must have been something stronger than champagne. Since then, my online persona has had to be a toned down, watered down, simmered down shadow of who I used to be, because every once in awhile my mother will post something like, “Make sure you stop at the stop sign after you pick up your shoes, there are a lot of kids in the neighborhood.”

Like most people, I think that with the more people I add, the less private my facebook life becomes. It has slowly become a different haven than it used to be. Once it was a private community where me and my friends could trash talk and post YouTube videos by John Lajoie. Now it is a place where my mother can get ahold of me at will, and I have 18 year old protégés still looking to me for guidance and inspiration.

Oh well, I guess I’m going to have to go through all my pictures (again), and get rid of anything incriminating. In the end, I’ll probably end up adding all of those graduates, because to tell you the truth, I’d love to keep in touch, and Facebook might be the only way. Sure, there is the “Defriend” option, but I only use that for people who simply won’t stop posting their every thought and action ten times a day (you know who you are). I’ll just have to be professional and inspiring, even in my private life.

And I can only hope that someone out there is creating a site on the internet where I can  network, message, and keep in touch with my closest friends. Wouldn’t that be a heck of an idea?

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2 Responses to “What To Do With Former Students’ Friend Requests”

  1. JoAnne Clark says:

    It felt weird to me to add former students as friends, and I also worried about potential repercussions. So far there have been none, although I must admit I’m not prone to either discussing illegal or pornographic activities, or posting pictures of myself engaged in them. I do know of one teacher friend who was chastised for a comment made about a (non-identified) student, but that came from an administrator friend and not the student. Don’t add administration as friends is the lesson there, I suppose! As a general rule, I say nothing in publicly-accessible areas of the ‘net that I wouldn’t be willing to say in my neighborhood Starbucks. It also helps that my students already know I have a mouth like a dockworker.

  2. Underground Teacher says:

    Facebook is part of the reason I am underground. People go searching, facebook security changes all the time, things go public without you knowing it, people rat on you on the dumbest things, and anything that is public can incriminate you. However, You can have two facebook accounts–one for students and updates and a private one. The private one must have the highest security ever and only invite real friends and family. I love that commercial about Facebook and who your friends are. People have a million and one friends on facebook, but are they really your friends? There are other ways to network yourself.

    I have gotten rid of facebook completely, and I won’t even make one for The Underground Teacher. Twitter and pinging works very well.

    That bad feeling is telling you something. Don’t do it! Just say no! or create an account specifically for your students and teaching experiences.

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