Friday, January 9, 2015

When Worlds Collide

I’ve been facing a dilemma of late, you see my worlds are colliding. It was bound to happen sooner or later, and I’m honestly shocked it took this long. Well, if I’m being honest, it began last year.

Sometimes I feel that I operate in two separate roles when it relates to children – parent and teacher. Last year those roles began to merge. I always tell personal stories in class – it is one way I connect to my students. They know me well, know what my life is like. Sometimes last year while I was talking I would look up and realize that these students of mine now included one special one – my son Luke. When I would go to tell stories about my life at home, I would always pause and think of whether that story would embarrass Luke. My own child became one of my “kids.” Worlds colliding.

It continued throughout the year and beyond. My boys have always had to “share” their mom when we are out in town. The awesome part of teaching in a small town is that I see my students everywhere. The boys have always been patient as I stop and talk to students and parents. Last year it began to happen with Luke’s friends. Going to Open House at his middle school I had to work to keep returning the focus to him, so many students were excited to visit, but this was his night. Worlds colliding.

Then, the final assault. This week Luke asked for an Instagram account. He and I sat down and really talked about it. What was he using it for, what the rules would be. I immediately told him that both Chris, my mom, and I would follow him and he had to follow us. If he wouldn’t post it for the three of us, than it shouldn’t be posted.

I have many former students following me on Instagram. I’ve never had a problem with that. I figured I can be a good example of how you use social media. The kicker is, I’ve never followed any back.

Twenty minutes after Luke opening an account, a close friend of his followed me. I paused, and then followed him back. If I wasn’t a teacher, I would absolutely follow my children’s friends. I think this parenting thing takes a village and I’m glad to keep an eye on his friends. But then I paused, where do I draw the line? Follow only his close friends? Only kids in his class? Only boys? I didn’t know what to do.

Life has a way of providing answers if you are willing to look for them. Last night our superintendent posted on Twitter that we would, in fact, be in school today. Some high school students chose to post some really awful tweets. That made me think. Instagram is an area where kids make poor choices often. They are often there without supervision and are navigating this social media world with a young brain that makes mistakes. What if I could help? What if I could not only be a bit of a role model on positing things with a positive message, but could also be the voice that reminds you to watch what you post? Could I do that? I think I can.


Teaching is not a 9-5 job, it never has been. Being friends with your students on social media is a topic that needs a lot of consideration. I don’t think it is right in every situation, but I’m ok with where I’ve landed on this. For now, on Instagram, I’m ok with it. I hope my students are. I hope they are ready for the mom voice to be present if I think they’ve made a misstep. Kids screw up, I know I did. I just want to help my students before they make mistakes they can’t undo. I’m finding more and more that I cannot separate the parent mindset from the teacher one. My worlds have become one and for that, I am grateful.

13 comments:

  1. I follow my grandson on Instagram, and I follow students whom I've had who have friended me on FB, a few high school & many all grown. I like that they invite me into their circle & there has been one time that I unfriended an older grown student who posted things I didn't want on my page. He may have noticed and I hope he got the message, but he is an adult. I think your message is clear, it takes a village, & now online, perhaps our presence is like they know there's someone that will be watching, & even taking care. FYI-I had my mother for 5th & 6th grade, & loved it!

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  2. Dana Williams MurphyJanuary 10, 2015 at 10:25 AM

    Katherine, my girls are only 2 and 5 years old, so I won't have to consider this for a long time. I believe I will remember this post when the time comes, though. I admire how thoughtful you are when considering your roles as a parent, teacher, and a user of social media. And, for what it's worth, I admire the way you open yourself up to your students. I hope my girls have a thoughtful, smart, and open teacher like you when they enter the adolescent world.

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  3. Be careful. I also have taught my own children. My children are now in their late 20's. They have told me stories of things that their classmates, and classmate's parents have said. For me the most heartbreaking was when my son told me that at a class reunion one of his classmates said, "I hate you're mom." Now, I realize that this student was referring to ME-the teacher and not ME-the mom. But it still hurt my son. To all you parent/teachers out there please remember that this is hard on your own children

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  4. Are you in a state that designates you a mandated reporter by law?

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  5. So fun that you had your mom! And I like the way you are using Social media too. :)

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  6. Thanks so much, Dana. I appreciate that!

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  7. That's so sad, Donna. My mom was a teacher too. I never had any issues with it, and so far my oldest hasn't. He had me last year for reading and requested that I be his Sunday School teacher this year. Thanks for the warning, but we're ok so far. I think it is important to let your children have a voice. For example - Luke got to pick if he wanted to be in my reading class (or if he wanted me to teach his Sunday School class). He got a say on me following his friends online. I think that is important.

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  8. Not all parent/teachers can separate the colliding worlds as well as you. In fact, some operate under the impression that their children should be given advantages that other students do not receive regardless of whether this is a conscious or subconscious occurrence .

    Teachers' children often gain access to information regarding other teachers and students. They are often the kids who arrive before school and stay after thus giving them privy to rooms and equipment. They are often the kids who get to stay in their mom/dad's room before school when all the other children are sent to a gym to wait for school to start. They are often the kids who are "trusted" to do errands more often than other kids.

    Personally, I believe teachers should not be allowed to teach in the same school that their children attend for no matter how many teacher/parents argue that their children have it harder, that is rarely the case. In fact, it would be very interesting to compare how well teachers' children perform with those whose parents are not teachers.

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  9. JCP - interesting points. Seems you have seen the ugly side of students of teachers, and I'm sorry to see that. Favoritism can occur at any time, and not just with teacher's kids. I think that is an issue to address that really involves more than children of teachers. In my case - with both my own mom as a teacher and with my own children, being the teacher's kid has the disadvantage of expecting more of your child than the others. It can be harder, not easier, to be in that situation.


    And while your final idea would be interesting, it is not possible everywhere. I live in a town of 5,000 people with five sections of fifth grade, all in the same building. If my children did not attend my school, they would have to pay to go out of district in another town or I would have to teach in another school in another town, which isn't possible.

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  10. Both of my children attended school at the high school where I teach. Because I am the only one who taught a subject my daughter needed, she had to take my class. She DID NOT do better than the other students; in fact, I was harder on her because I did not want anyone accusing me of favoritism, so she barely pulled a B in my honors class. Teachers are professionals and adults; they can deal with their children in a responsible manner. Most teachers expect more of their children and allow fewer excuses from them.

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  11. I agree, Charlotte. Thank you for sharing. Teachers are professionals overall. Some might make poor choices, but that isn't necessarily true for the profession. I am absolutely harder on my own children than I am on others.

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  12. I have begun following my students on instagram, too, for the exact same reasons. It's funny, because it was precipitated by the replies my school district received about lack of snow days just like your experience. I struggle with the fact that many kids have accounts on social media that they are not technically old enough for. I am assuming from your post that you are okay with it if the parent monitors it? I see so many of my students who have multiple accounts - one their parent is aware of (and follow) and others that are unknown to the parent. I think this is what worries me. I have tried to comment back, in a respectful way, to students on district Twitter/Facebook who speak disrespectfully or inappropriately. I think the teacher can be a great role model for appropriate online behavior. I recently posted about the trend of teachers trying to show their students how quickly a picture is shared, but I think we are missing an important component of education on social media - how students' words on social media also need to be appropriate and respectful and how not being appropriate can reflect poorly on that students' reputation.

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