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Graduate First – Why I Won’t Add You As My Facebook Friend Yet


This weekend, I read Back to School: Tips for Teachers on Facebook on the Facebook blog. In it, the author writes:

Some teachers stay away from Facebook altogether, while others — like some of my friends — have found creative workarounds such as only accepting friend requests from students who’ve graduated or those who are over the age of 18. However, it doesn’t have to be that difficult. In fact, it is useful and rewarding to connect with your students on Facebook. So, in honor of all the people who are heading back to school this month, here are some tips for using Facebook.

The article continues by outlining some things that we as teachers can do to secure the privacy of our accounts. Basic things like being specific about the Privacy settings and adding current students to various Friend Lists to keep certainpeople from seeing certain information.

While this is all well and good, I still hold to my “Graduate First” philosophy behind social media connection with students. For that matter, if I see one of them following me on Twitter, I block them. Why?

The less I know…
I don’t want to be responsible if there are any problems. I’ve seen the pictures some of the recently graduated students post on their profiles. I have no question that these same pictures are on their sites when they’re still in school. The last thing I want is a parent or administrator (or police officer) coming to me wondering why I didn’t report underage drinking or a questionable relationship or whatever else. Perhaps it’s fear, but at the same time, I would rather be too cautious than too permissive.

Enough is enough
There is only so much time that I really need to spend with people half my age. One of the main reasons I retired from my mariachi this summer was because there were not enough people in the group who were close to my age. They are all quite a bit younger than me.

Maybe I’m paranoid
Maybe I am. But then again, I like to think of it as practicing wisdom in this area (God knows I don’t practice wisdom in most areas of my life!). So when do I let kids add me? As soon as their high school graduation ceremony is complete and I know they have walked across the stage.

So what about you? Do you add current students on Facebook? Do you add students after the graduate from high school? Do you only add them after they’ve graduated from college? Do you have ANY former students on Facebook?

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Joel Wagner (@sywtt) began teaching band in 2002. Though he had a lot of information, his classes were out of control. He found himself tired, frustrated, disrespected by students, lonely, and on the brink of quitting. He had had enough. He resigned from his school district right before spring break of his second year and made it his personal mission to learn to be a great teacher. So You Want To Teach? is the ongoing story of that quest for educational excellence.

Joel Wagner
Joel Wagner (<strong><a href="">@sywtt</a></strong>) began teaching band in 2002. Though he had a lot of information, his classes were out of control. He found himself tired, frustrated, disrespected by students, lonely, and on the brink of quitting. He had had enough. He resigned from his school district right before spring break of his second year and made it his personal mission to learn to be a great teacher. <strong><a href="">So You Want To Teach?</a></strong> is the ongoing story of that quest for educational excellence.

14 thoughts on “Graduate First – Why I Won’t Add You As My Facebook Friend Yet

  1. What are folks’ thoughts on creating a group on FB for your class? In this way, your profile is still kept secret, but it provides a (public) place for interaction on FB. Groups allow interaction without sharing personal information from your profile.

    I know that ANY social network site has its detractors and such so I anticipate many negative comments about this, but I’m just wondering. The more I use FB the more I realize that its implications are more far-reaching than just social networking. It can be used in a positive way for information exchange, etc.

    But I do agree on keeping my FB page as private as possible. I delete tags to most any photo I don’t post myself. Additionally, I put folks in different groups to restrict the information they do see about me. Oh, and as a pre-service teacher, I obviously don’t have students as friends. Once I become a teacher, I will not add students as friends until they graduate.

    1. i graduated last year from high school and i finished my certified college class my, teachers won’t accept me at all on facebook.

  2. I have no problem letting former or current students friend me on Facebook. While I will never initiate a friend request, I’ll always accept requests from current and former students. Since I have absolutely no personal info — or photos — on Facebook, I don’t worry about privacy.

  3. They have to graduate first (although I might start to accept requests a few weeks early)
    I don’t friend them.
    After they graduate, I accept their requests.

    I started on FB 2 1/2 years ago, and three of our four graduating classes finished since I’ve been on. I find it interesting who friends me, and I do interact, a bit, with some.

    I should add, I’m in a small high school (350 kids), so over four years I get to know them fairly well. It might be stranger coming from a bigger school.

  4. When I was in high school, one of my favorite teachers told us we could call her by her first name on the day we graduated. That concept (even more than graduation) signaled the ending of one chapter of my life, and the beginning of a new one. (Even though I still wouldn’t be caught dead calling her “Linda.”)

    I tell my students that they can call me by my first name and friend me on facebook the day they graduate from high school. Though no former students refer to me by first name, I am friends with several of them on facebook.

    I think another difference in philosophy on this comes with your personal facebook usage. I started my facebook account in college, so I have pictures and information from college formals, football games, dorm events, etc. Though none of it is inappropriate, it is more of my life and history than I would like my current students to see. I almost think that if I had created my account as an adult, and with being a teacher in mind, my facebook profile could function as a student-friendly connection.

  5. i do not allow current students to be my friend on fb. it just seemed like asking for trouble. at another local school, students printed out pictures of a teacher on vacation on the beach (in a bikini) with an umbrella drink in her hand. they made posters and stickers and buttons and spread tehm all over the school. once a student graduates, however, if they send me a friend request i almost always accept right away. after 3 years as their director at middle school and 4 years as their assistant at high school, it is nice to see what they are accomplishing in college and beyond.

  6. I only friend students who have graduated and only if they send a friend request to me. I am not comfortable having my current students as friends on Facebook or any other social networking site. There just seems to be too much that can go wrong with that scenario.

  7. I don’t friend students on FB, but recently I’ve been thinking about forming a FB group that they can join (as described by Eric above).

    That way I can still interact with them online, but retain most of my privacy on FB.

    What do you think?

  8. I don’t know that I’ve initiated any friend requests, but I friend students if they ask. Most haven’t. It’s just another place to talk and listen. I’m not expected to be aware of everything that happens within the walls of the school; there’s no reason I should be expected to be aware of everything that happens on FB.

    Meredith also has an important point. I started my FB page after I’d been teaching for awhile. It’s incredibly tame. I’m also VERY sensitive about people taking pictures of me, so there’s simply not much there.

  9. I am a pre-service teacher. On my second day of prac last week, I had a bunch of students (not even ones from my class) start talking to me in the playground about Farmville and other Facebook apps and then asked if they could be my friend.
    I quickly spouted some lines about innapropriateness. Their response was that because I was not a real teacher yet, I didn’t have anything to worry about. So they started asking me for my full name, and then they realised I had it on a big ass name badge on my shirt. Luckily they seem to have forgotten all about it (it was last day of term) and no random teeny bopper requests have headed my way. Huzzah!

  10. I am glad that you blogged about this topic, because it is something that I think about a lot. I am currently a sophomore in college studying to become a teacher, and I have a facebook and I’ve always wondered what I will do with it when I graduate and get a teaching job. I originally thought that as soon as I graduated, I would delete my facebook. However, now that facebook has become an “adult” thing instead of simply a “teenage” thing, I think I’m going to adopt the same strategy that you suggest. Once students graduate from high school, the relationship that you have with them changes. I know that once I graduated (which was not so long ago), the teachers I kept it contact with became more mentors/friends than adults who had authority over me. To me, this makes a relationship on facebook more appropriate and WAY less likely to cause controversy.

    By the way, I really like your blog, and while I will admit I found it while doing an assignment for a class, I am definitely going to keep reading it :)

  11. I have no problems with students being my “friend” but I am very careful about what I say and what I post. I don’t say anything that I wouldn’t want my own mother to read. I also think it is a good way to be a good role model for students.

  12. For me, Facebook is really an issue of real life friends vs. work colleagues. I've recently added a couple colleagues as friends, but I'm even somewhat hesitant with that. I am pretty conservative about what types of things I'll write in a status update, but I don't want the additional pressure of what my colleagues, students, or their parents think about my postings. I totally agree with your “graduate first” approach. Perhaps a blog or some other venue would be more appropriate for alumni.

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