Yesterday I spent a lovely evening with my son’s classmates, their parents and teachers for the traditional school-year-end pizza party. As my wife is a teacher too, I ended up sitting at a table with many teachers.
My son is in seventh grade: some of his teachers are in their mid thirties, others in their late forties.
I don’t know how we ended up discussing about social networks, but I said that I have the principal (who was not at dinner with us) as a Facebook friend. We got in touch because my daughter, who’s now in high school but used to go to the same school as my son, loves writing, and I knew this is something she had in common with the principal who published already a fairly successful novel. When I made contact with her I explained that I was looking for advice for my daughter about which studies or courses she should take to further cultivate her passion for writing. She accepted my request for friendship almost immediately and since then we have had two or three conversations, plus the usual birthday wishes.
With a principal who is in her late fifties on Facebook, I was surprised to hear that none of the teachers at our table even had an account on Facebook, and only one was on LinkedIn. I heard that out of my son’s class, only one teacher is active on Facebook, but she was not at our dinner either (could this be a pattern? Teachers with Facebook profiles do not attend class pizza parties?).
Back home I sent an invite to both the teacher on LinkedIn the one on Facebook, The former accepted enthusiastically – pretty much like the principal did months ago, while the latter politely declined, telling me that professional ethics prevented her from establishing contacts with students and their parents.
I drew two interesting conclusions from this.
First of all, there is no clear code of conduct for teachers on social media: some automatically accept any student’s or parent ‘s request, some decline them all, and I guess there are very few in between, as one cannot selectively accept or decline invitations from students and parents without getting in trouble.
Second, demographics tell us very little about behaviors. Some of the younger teachers make very limited use of social media, whereas their principal is far more active.
Living with a teacher I do see how things are going to change though. As public officers, with responsibility for kids or teen-agers, teachers will be expected to behave transparently: denying contacts will no longer be an option. Parents will want to see how teachers behave in social networks and establish closer contacts with them. Students will increasingly use these media as an extension of their classroom, and some teachers will have to find a way to participate and even articulate a compelling value proposition for their students on these media.
We’ll have another pizza party in one year from now I can’t wait to see how many teachers he and I will have as friends in one or more of our networks by then.