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.