This year, I have seen my son’s fourth grade teacher in person exactly one time—and that one time was a fluke in which I was signing him into school after a morning doctor’s appointment and she happened to walk into the office to collect some paperwork. Other than that, I have had one virtual parent-teacher conference with her, watched a handful of video messages she sent to parents at the beginning of the school year, and I catch the occasional glimpse on Zoom when I walk past my son’s desk for a coffee refill.
Because of our isolation during the pandemic, we have all felt compelled to virtually connect with each other to a greater degree. Work life is home life, and home life is work life, and what are boundaries anymore? Maybe you’re even thinking of connecting with your kid’s teachers on social media—hey, it’s one more way to stay in touch and connect a little more personally during These Times, right?
Before you click to friend them on Facebook or Instagram, or request to follow their private Twitter feed, though, pause for a moment. Then maybe don’t do it.
It’s awkward for them
I am not a teacher, but at the risk of speaking on behalf of teachers and being totally wrong (unlikely), they’re probably not looking to friend 20 new sets of parents they barely know on their personal pages every school year. They have their own kids, who may also attend school or other activities with your kids and whose privacy they need to protect regardless.
They go out for happy hour with their friends, they write sappy, romantic posts to their partners on anniversaries, and they take pictures wearing swim suits at the beach. They might love to share all of this with their friends and family, but do they want to share it with Aiden’s mom and Molly’s dad? Doubtful.
Plus…politics. Julie Mason, an instructional coach and former middle and high school teacher, writes this for WeAreTeachers:
If you use Facebook to express your views on politics, religion, or current events, you may worry that parents won’t agree with you. Or even worse, they may fear you’ll be sharing certain points of view with your students. If you accept parent requests, your Facebook page may need to change from being private and personal to public and professional. If you don’t want to second guess yourself every time you post, then don’t accept parents’ friend requests.
Even if some teachers want to accept your request, many schools and school districts have policies in place that prevent them from doing so, which means they’ve either got to reject your request without comment (awkward) or tell you they’re sorry but their principal said no (also awkward).
It’s an invasion of your child’s privacy
Your kids might not care now that you’re social media buddies with their second grade teacher, but they might care by the time they’re in third or fourth grade. Kids, rightfully so, become more sensitive to the images and information we share about them online as they get older. And, the same way adults draw boundaries between the professional and the personal, kids should reserve the right to keep their home lives separate from their social lives at school.
It should be up to our kids to choose what to divulge to their teacher and classmates about their personal lives, including how they spent their weekend or what they did on their vacation. Even if they want to share something, it should come from them. If they show up to school and their teacher already knows they got a new puppy before they can even blurt it out, that’s going to be a bit of a let-down.
There’s really no need for it
Maybe the best argument for not attempting to friend your child’s teacher on private social media channels, though, is that there often isn’t a good reason to do so. You almost certainly were given information at the beginning of the school year for how to communicate with them, whether it’s through an email address, a phone number, or a classroom communications app, like ClassDojo. Those are the channels they’ll be monitoring for messages from parents—not Facebook Messenger or their Twitter DMs.
Every teacher is going to have a different comfort level regarding connecting over social media. Some preschool teachers might like to see the little ones they taught grow up over the years; some high school teachers might not mind accepting requests from students—after they’ve graduated. But many more are going to feel like it crosses a boundary and won’t be comfortable with it.
The exception is if they’ve set up a public profile or a classroom Facebook group that they encourage parents to join and participate in. For example, I have a friend who is a fourth grade teacher, and she has a private Instagram account where she posts pictures of her kids, and she has a public “teacher” account dedicated to photos of her classroom, bulletin board designs, and selfies during spirit week. That’s fair game. Anything behind a privacy wall, however, should stay there.