A few days ago, I noticed the face of one of the teachers at my kids’ school on the “people you may know” feature of Facebook. I noticed we had some mutual friends, so I clicked on her page. To my surprise, the mutual friends were parents of students in her class. I wondered if this was common and if I was the odd person out, so I went down the Facebook rabbit hole until I found more teachers. Many of them were also friends with the parents of students in their classes.
As a former teacher (thankfully before the Facebook boom) and a current parent, I feel uniquely qualified to speak to this issue. In my opinion, parents and teachers becoming Facebook “friends” complicates the parent-teacher relationship and borders on unprofessional. I think that teachers should be able to keep their private lives private, and that being friends with parents outside of the classroom puts teachers in a compromising position.
As a parent, we all realize that teachers are human and have their own lives. But we tend to hold them under a higher level of scrutiny because they are in charge of our kids all day. I remember a coworker shopping at HEB and bumping into a parent, who questioned why she had beer in her shopping cart, even though she was over 21 and it was a Friday night. Teachers are held to a high moral standard, and they should be, in their professional lives. When we only know about their decorum in the classroom, it’s easier for us to assess them on a moral level. Think about it: is it fine to see an adult drinking or partying in Vegas? Or voting for a political candidate that you abhor? Of course. But does that change when that same adult is in charge of your child all day? Maybe. We should let teachers keep their private lives private—it’s healthier for them and you that way. Sure, teachers choose to share certain elements of their lives with students. My daughter knows about her teacher’s kids and dogs and favorite restaurant. But just like any relationship, parents and teachers need healthy boundaries, and the teacher should be the one to put those boundaries in place by sharing what she wants to share with her students.
Parents and teachers being friends outside of the classroom can put teachers in a compromising position. From a legal perspective, the lack of professional boundaries can have consequences. A local teacher was sued over a Pinterest post. Improper teacher-student relationships have been at an all-time high this year, in part due to relationships brewed over social media. Aside from the legal complications, there’s a likelihood that relationships outside of the classroom can lead to favoritism. Even with the best of intentions, a teacher could unknowingly treat the child of a friend differently than another student.
As I do with many things, I posed the question to my Facebook friends: “Are you friends with your child’s teacher on Facebook?” I got a variety of responses, but most parents said no. Most of them pointed to the level of professionalism and the desire to let teachers live their private lives privately. My favorite response was this one, though: “I’m not sure how knowing about a teacher’s personal life would enhance our relationship or my child’s educational experience.” That sums up my feelings. My children’s teachers have been some of the best women I’ve ever known, but I don’t want to push for a relationship outside of the classroom until there’s no longer a conflict of interest.
If you want a social media relationship with your child’s teacher, I’d recommend one of the following:
- Wait until your child is no longer in his/her class (and make sure you have no other younger children who may potentially be in that teacher’s class one day)
- Ask your teacher if she’d consider making a Facebook or Instagram page just for parents and students
- Check to see if your teacher already uses Class Dojo or Edmondo, social media platforms just for classrooms