Teachers, Students, Selfies & Social Media

It’s the last day of school and a high school student just asked you to pose with them for a selfie. Years ago you would have gladly leaned in and smiled for the camera. Today, maybe not! With teachers fired or disciplined for tweets and photos on social media becoming commonplace, it’s understandable why you might want to stay out of the “picture.”

Beyond selfies, it should go without saying that teachers ‘friending’ students on social media could be, and has been seen as inappropriate. Allowing students into your personal life is anything but professional. Imagine a last-day-of-school selfie appearing on a ‘friended’ student’s Facebook page with a caption you may never have imagined.

Do students who have already graduated fall into a different category? Hypothetically, taken by a classmate, the photo example shown below is of Mr. Y critiquing Mary’s creative writing assignment. After graduation, excited to share her multiple successes as a published author, Mary (not her real name) sends Mr. Y a ‘friend’ request.

Teacher tutoring high school girl with writing assignment

Recalling her school days in Mr. Y’s class, Mary posts this photo to Mr. Y’s Facebook page with a short “thank you” caption. Could a malicious parent or a student with a grudge, through recaptioning and Photoshop, turn this photo into something it is not, particularly since Mr. Y and Mary are social media friends? Keeping personal and professional interactions exclusive may be the best policy in all cases.

Public schools, for the most part, have rules in place for teacher/student social media relationships and selfies. Not all International Schools have done the same. ISR asks: Does your International School have selfie and social media rules in place? What do they entail? What are your personal feelings on the subject? Is it ever appropriate to ‘friend’ your students?

Please scroll down to participate in this ISR Discussion

13 thoughts on “Teachers, Students, Selfies & Social Media

  1. I do not think it is appropriate to be friends with students. Students have requested friendship and I have contacted their parents and told them no. Students are allowed, once they have graduated high school, to reach out and then I will accept them. Having said that, I do not put anything too private onto my page anyway and I am in a number of groups due to my global nomad life. I also do not like having parents connecting with me over social media (with the odd exception) but, in smaller more isolated communities, I will do so because you kind of have to belong to the social group a little more.

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    1. Further, I have worked in schools where I see teachers routinely using their personal twitter accounts – at the school’s request – to post student activities (often with names and identifying the school) and that is horrifying.

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    2. Absolutely agree with this point
      1. if you have a page that people can join you on, it doesn’t need to have a lot of info. if it does, create a second one for these sort of “arms-length” relationships
      2. I love hearing from students that have graduated.Many of my students are post grads and post docs etc and they still make the occasional communication. One or two, at least in their degree phase even ask for advice.
      We talk about being a family, particularly in intl education well lets act like family and support each other and contact each other, even when we are still not around each other.

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    3. I agree. It is very inappropriate to allow students to follow teachers on Twitter. And I am not keen on chat rooms with parents via WhatsApp either. My TA created a chatroom which went into the wee hours of the morning. Mostly, small talk and likes here and there.

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  2. Having taught at a Nord Anglia school in Beijing (BSB Shunyi), what I found very alarming and unprofessional was that teachers were actively encouraged to connect with students (mostly Year 12/13) via WeChat – which is the Chinese version of WhatsApp.

    This was the culture of the school. This culture was then exacerbated By Covid-19 and teachers were then directed to swap WeChat QR codes with their students but not their telephone number! How stupid because it’s basically the same thing. Students would be able to message you and if they so desired call you via WeChat anyway without having your number!

    Needless to say I considered this to be a major safeguarding issue and so refused this request from the schools Administrators immediately.

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    1. A friend of a friend works at this school and he has told me about student and teachers swapping WeChat QR codes so that they could communicate during Covid. I honestly didn’t believe her when she told me this. Sounded way too strange. Now having read this post I am more inclined to believe it!

      Shocking to say the least. Whoever came up with this idea needs to be fired.

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  3. I avoid social media contacts with students. We all know the middle age male teacher that is far too chummy with the high school girls, some of which are far from being just “girls.” I worked with a guy who friended one of there “girls” on Facebook. He became accursed of wrongdoings and was fired. The girl’s mother instigated the witch hunt and the weak school director went along with it.

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  4. This is a fraught area, not least because when some of us started teaching there was no internet let alone social media. Perhaps we learned how to engage in a way that was friendly yet were able to engage professionally when necessary. The ethos, dynamics and environment of classrooms appears to have changed, modern education perhaps seeming more clinical and less nurturing, national and international schools are totally different too. Perhaps even more significantly, voicing an opinion can bring derision, accusations of unprofessionalism and worse, and intolerance of any views that fall outside of the group think world that social media seems to cultivate.

    Having taught in a number of isolated areas, where the school is the hub of the expat community, the teachers who seem to last longest, survive best and appear most valued by the families are those that integrate to a degree with the community. We’re all different and I respect colleagues that like to keep their personal lives and professional lives separate, however I don’t believe this is a universal standard that everyone should be obliged to sign up to. Personally I don’t understand the need to keep the school community at an arms length, some of my best friendships have developed from the school community I’ve been part of.

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  5. I don’t friend coworkers nor students. I have one former parent I keep in touch with through text and Zoom and some former coworkers through texting and rare meet ups. I prefer to keep my work and personal life separate even it means I may come off cold at work. I just don’t want my personal life shared with everyone at work. When I graduated high school, I did keep in touch with some teachers but as I grew older would get drunk texts from males… So yes, keeping that separation has been valuable.

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  6. It would all depend, surely, on what you, or your friends, put on FB. I have many ex students on my FB , and have had so for the last 16 years, with no problems whatsoever. Why should there be problems?

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  7. I avoid pictures because I don’t like to see myself in them, and I don’t friend former students do several years after they have graduated, and I teach middle school, so that’s at least 7 or 8 years after I’ve taught them.

    It has been forbidden in my schools to connect with students on social media and I’m so glad for that. Even if I didn’t think it unwise to do so, I wouldn’t want to because I generally post about my family, etc., and I don’t want to share that with my students. I like to keep my friends group somewhat intimate but I would feel exclusive telling kids (and parents) who ask no, so I’m happy to be able to say it’s not allowed.

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