Navigating the Fine Line: Fostering Positive Student-Teacher Relationships in the Age of Social Media
Student-Teacher Relationships on Social Media: Although I’ve been teaching for some years, I still remember my first teaching experience. It came with so much anxiety, especially since it was my first time teaching in school.
I was excited but still nervous facing some high school kids that looked straight into my eyes and were waiting to hear me speak, probably to judge, have comments or give me a nick haha.
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Finally, I spoke and the courage came when the students enjoyed the flow of communication. It was lovely to face the students and have a good time with them.
For some teachers, talking to their students this way bonds them, and often, the first impression your students have of you helps them know how well they can relate with you.
Note that as teachers, our methods of teaching and communicating with our students may be very different from each other.
For example, since I started teaching very young, I could relate with my students most pleasantly but it could be different from yours.
I looked for different methods of teaching them. When I noticed that most students in high school are usually shy and scared of reaching out in class out of fear of embarrassment, I decided to use what I called the “SM method”(Social Media method).
As teachers, many of us know that communicating with our students on social media has pros and cons, and the best you can do is learn how to balance this relationship. I learned how to balance it by asking myself some questions; I’d happily share these tips with you.
Can Students Follow Teachers On Social Media?
Any teacher who has gotten friend requests from their students on social media will understand why this question is essential and that there is no particular answer.
Many of us understand that before accepting a student’s friend request, you should first understand the school’s policy and consider using a professional account.
Since answering my students’ questions on social media could not be avoided most times, I considered using a professional account to follow them on social media so I could communicate and at the same time maintain professional boundaries.
If you’re wondering why I’m repeatedly talking about why you should use a professional account, it’s because of a few experiences I’ve had teaching senior students.
They often forget their boundaries when you use your private account to communicate with them. Using your professional account first puts one thing in their mind- that you’re their teacher and every discussion should be straight to the point, professional and valid.
In addition to keeping the conversation on a student-teacher level, you can avoid favoritism. Since teachers by nature, worry about their students, being concerned about a particular student could be tagged as having a favorite- talking out of the experience.
How Can Teachers Avoid Social Media Interactions With Students?
Many teachers feel that interacting with their students on social media should be out of the question. I often suggest to teachers that if a student sends a request asking to be a mutual friend, it is your responsibility to accept or reject the request.
Although, it is best first to understand why the student is requesting to be friends before deleting or rejecting it. Either way, the first way to avoid social media interactions with your students is simply by rejecting any form of communication on social media and interacting with them physically instead.
So How Do I Communicate With My Students Outside Classroom?
As some teachers say, engaging with their students on social media has helped reduce their school workload. Of course, this only applies to some teachers since some still insist it is not necessary to interact with their students on social media platforms.
If you’re a teacher reading this, you could recall most cases where you would want to give an assignment to your students but end up forgetting.
Well, thankfully, because of the advanced digital world, you can now give your students assignments or projects to work on without having to do it physically and this may be a good way of relieving stress for you.
Teachers have also started creating general group chat for students and email accounts where they can ask questions regarding school- as a teacher, I suggest using email accounts to communicate with your students to keep it professional. Using emails gives room for transparency and makes your student understand that conversations should be “business only”.
Should I Be Concerned If My Students Are Spending Too Much Time On Social Media?
Statistics show that social media can be a powerful tool for teachers to engage with students and support them inside and outside the classroom walls, including their behavioral and learning outcomes. However, it can also cause significant concerns surrounding students’ privacy, safety, and crossing boundaries.
As teachers, we can recall when we were allowed to give our students corporal punishments for using their phones during studies, but now that school policies are changing, we can only seize it for a few hours.
According to the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, most students who spend too much time on social media are more likely to show signs of depression, decreased emotional support, and increased fear of missing out.
I could relate to the fear of missing out because I remember asking my students once why they were always hooked on social media, and 80% said they always want to be updated on celebrities’ lifestyles and not miss out on anything.
Few also admitted that Instagram gave them lots of emotional support and the chance to feel like they were in another world.
Others said they ran to social media whenever they felt stressed or tired. When your students spend too much time on social media, it should be a significant concern because it could start telling on their grades.
Most parents do not even know that their children own a cellphone, and the few that are aware do not know their children’s activities which is why PG is always advised when giving teenagers cell phones.
How Do I Help My Students Balance Social Media And School?
60 out of 100 high school teachers, especially seniors, ask this question. Typically, most students need help to balance school and social media.
Remember that as teachers, we cannot get our students to focus in class and at the same time keep on communicating with them on social media.
Statistics show that kids are most likely to own a cell phone from thirteen years. I suggest making your students have specific emails for schoolwork.
Another method is telling them to turn off their phones in class, setting daily screen time limits, and most importantly talking to them about creating a social media schedule. For example if they have to study by 10 am, they can quickly scroll through social media ten minutes before study time.
As teachers, we understand how important it is to have a good relationship with our students. While communication can be done on social media platforms that can be controlled and used to educate them, maintaining boundaries should be noted to avoid any form of misinterpretation from our students or the school authorities