As an instructor, I have the distinct pleasure of having Fridays off, which means that even though it’s 38 degrees and raining outside, I am typing in a warm bath upstairs and working on my first large cup of water for the day. I have very few wants, but I would consider these things essential to my well-being. Is that high maintenance?
Anyway, I work at a college where the students are majority male and studying technical fields. The average student ranges from age 18 – 30 with only a few outliers. I teach four classes a term and generally have anywhere between 50 – 100 students.
What I find is there are always a handful of students who pay attention a little bit more than the others… and I don’t mean to the subject matter.
These students typically send more emails, ask more questions and wait around after class for parting words. They are the types of students who are generally kind and insist on chatting about more personal matters, giving gifts, and finding ways to connect outside of class.
Sometimes these connections are purely innocent. A lot of the time, I suspect the student feels we could legitimately be friends, and I have to admit that sometimes I feel that way too. There are a couple of students I would actually consider hanging out with in my spare time, but I find myself telling students term after term that I will not connect with them on Facebook, and I will not give them my phone number regardless of how persistent and humorous they may be (well some of them are really funny!).
Let me clarify, I am not a magnet for student Facebook adds by any means. After my first term teaching, I did my best to make myself unsearchable on social media (with the exception of LinkedIn). And despite the work I did there, somehow a student will still manage to find me every so often…I suspect because of connections I have with other instructors who do not abide by this same practice.
In fact, last night a student in class was not feeling well. First off, this student is a very nice student, and I have not heard anything but good things about him from other instructors. He has brought french fries to class (yes, I allow food in a 4-hr lecture class) after hearing they are in my top junk food favorites, and he always emails me to let me know when he will be late for class.
Anyway, he gave a presentation last night which showed he didn’t really comprehend the material, and after watching him squirm for a while, I tried to redirect the students’ attention to the correct information because they would be quizzed on it next class.
The student sat down and visibly appeared a few shades lighter, said he didn’t feel well, and laid his head down on his desk. Since I noticed he hadn’t eaten (he usually does), I assumed he might have been experiencing some combination of low blood sugar and sheer terror after having presented so horribly.
I gave him peppermints and an orange from my bag. I placed a trashcan near him for the peels, and apparently all of this was too nice. He stayed after class and asked if it would be weird if he friended me on Facebook. I let him know that I don’t connect with students on Facebook, and he said no teacher had ever told him “no” before.
I assured him that I would be happy to connect on LinkedIn if he wanted the connection, but I make it a practice of not friending students on Facebook, especially when they were in my class and I expect to have them for another class.
Reasons Why I Don’t Friend Students
- Boundaries are important. I am already nice enough, and I think a student seeking professional training needs to know there are lines and where they are.
- Work is work. I do enjoy sharing things that I feel are relevant to the class and can establish a base connection, but that is also part of my job and I am in control of identifying what is beneficial and what may not be beneficial (i.e., the picture of me standing on a beach in a bikini top). Students simply don’t need access to these pictures.
- I can’t afford to do favors for anyone. I might actually enjoy a student, and this might be the exact reason I shouldn’t friend them on Facebook. I don’t have time to get caught up in a friendship with someone that I also have to grade. As a human being, I can try to compartmentalize, but let’s face it! I am emotional and can’t risk getting close enough to someone whom I’d be tempted to make exceptions for when they underperform.
- I am a young, attractive woman. After signing my paperwork to start teaching, I received a phone call from the dean who warned me that I would have to be careful because I was “so young and pretty.” I feel pressure to be sterner and establish firmer boundaries than my colleagues because of it.
- I’m not trying to hook up. This one I actually have to make clear to classes as a whole. Sometimes it seems like the questions students enjoy asking most are the personal questions…and if they see that you aren’t wearing a wedding band (I live with my partner, whom I do not discuss with my young male students), they think that means you are fair game.
- Because. What better reason is there than simply not wanting to?
Calling all instructors!
- What do you think?
- Do you friend your students?
- Do you feel like it’s best to keep things separate?