Parent Communication 2.0

The mom of a former student of mine became started following me on Twitter today. It was a surprise and presents a bit of a conundrum. On the one hand, up to this point I've mainly used Twitter to share inane updates (Quest for a Niners bar has finally come to an end.) and funny/interesting headlines (RT@TheOnion Friendship Between Caterpillar, Horse Exploited for Cheap Children's Book http:/ with friends. At the same time, it's become increasingly clear that Twitter is not the place for privacy.

Still, while I've worked to maintain an appropriate public image on Twitter, I still hoped to keep it a personal space. Connecting with parents (and eventually students presumably) ends that, and blurs the space between my professional and personal realms. To paraphrase George Constanza, "My worlds are colliding!"

It seems simple enough to block this woman and any other professional contacts from following me. I just worry about her taking offense since she's already started following me. Maybe someone with a better knowledge of Twitter can tell me whether she will have any way of noticing she's not getting my Tweets?

Regardless of how I solve the problem, it's definitely a new problem characteristic of the new era teaching is entering. Beyond all the political changes teaching is undergoing, it is also transforming at a rapid pace as technology evolves. I've found technology can provide exciting new opportunities such as the class web site I've used to post nightly homework, encourage parent-teacher communication and post video lessons. But it can also be unsettling, as in the case where a former student, only in the 5th grade, messages me on Facebook.

It's not exactly groundbreaking news, but it is clear the internet is breaking down barriers between public and private identities. It will be interesting to see how that affects the "dual" identities that are common among teachers.


Mr. Ray said…
Twitter and Facebook sound like they might just be too much trouble in cases like these...there are more responsible ways to communicate with former students and parents.
ThatTallGuy said…
The good news -- or perhaps the bad news -- is that this issue is by no means limited to teachers. Most obviously (and relevant to your position,) what students do (and post on Facebook or other sites) will now follow them around for a long time. But the same is true of everybody else.

Another aspect: I recently was contacted out of the blue by high school classmates (from 25 years ago) who I hadn't heard from since graduation. She kept saying how wonderful it was that we could vicariously relive our high school years without, apparently, remembering that I was one of the bullied kids and as such I have little motivation to dig up such memories.

Forgetfulness is a blessing sometimes, as is the privacy to lead a kicked-back non-professional life. We are going to have to deal with these eternal and public memories somehow, or else change how we live.

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