Earlier this month, lawmakers in Missouri passed a bill to restrict teachers from communicating with their students (current or former, if under the age of 18) via Facebook or other individual networking sites. When that ruling was released a few weeks ago, I wanted to respond through this line of communication, but I was so undone about the decision, I did not know how to write a concise article about the absurdity about such a ruling. Now, as of Friday, August 26, 2011, a Cole County Circuit Judge, Jon Beetem, has ruled against the bill and a decision will NOT be made by Missouri lawmakers until February of 2012
Please, let me start off with a big sigh of, “whew!” That does not directly refer to my situation with my former students (They are all 18 and above.), but that was not always the case in which I communicated with my kids. The only reason I didn’t communicate with more kids via Facebook is that it did not exist during most of the time I taught 8thand 9thgraders.
However, even during the time before Facebook, I created multiple ways for kids to communicate with me. I featured a mailbox in my classroom right by the door so kids could leave me notes, letters, or whatever they needed. Eventually, teachers were issued email addresses, and I made mine readily available to every one of my kids. Some might worry, “But all of your school email can be accessed and read by others in the district.” Yep. And that was fine with me. I talked with my kids about that very concept, because I knew I would NEVER engage in any email communication that was inappropriate with a child. EVER. So my school email communications were an open book. I just wanted my kids to know that ahead of time so they could choose their method of communication based upon the level of privacy they desired (in case their concern had to do with another adult in the building…).
So now, with the advent of Facebook and being away from my classroom, I am SO thankful for the opportunity to communicate with my kids! It doesn’t matter that some of them are in their late 20s; they’re still my babies, so I have been invited to weddings, baby showers, kid’s birthdays, reunions, and other celebrations and/or significant milestones that my kids have blessed me with invitations via Facebook. This does not include the lunches, dinners, book talks, or other (public) meetings in which I have been privileged to participate. I LOVE that I have been able to give advice, support and care for my kids who seek it. I would not trade my kids for the world. To take away this form of communication would be devastating. I understand that there are those who abuse, and guidelines need to be made in order to protect kids; however, the majority of educators are looking out for their kids’ best interests.