Monday, January 21, 2013

Relating to Students: Revisited

I still remember not all that long ago when it felt like I was surrounded by people saying the most severe statements about social networking, liking it to an almost demon-like force capable of demolishing our entire society. For certain there are still others who speak that way, although I think trying to fight the tide has certainly lessened.

In 2006 I wrote this in a public forum (,15135,15170) expressing my confusion about how upset people were about Facebook. I’m not ready to point a finger at my “opponents” and tell them I them I was right; but then again, maybe it’s time to reevaluate and realize I was more right than I realized.

I had a thought today, one in which I felt confused (and I’m still confused). Ever since I started teaching I’ve been told that one of the “secrets” of capturing student attention is to learn to relate to them. Chat with them about a movie. Go to one of their games and cheer them on. Shmooze with them about life.

What’s the underlying message? They’ll be better students if there’s a relationship. There’s more chance of a relationship if you’re friendly with them on their terms, on their turf, so to speak. Now, I know that there’s always been a boundary that should not be crossed; however, isn’t their 21st century turf, their comfort zone, the social network? Most institutions, with good reason, frown upon or forbid student and teacher social networking “friendships.” But isn’t the modern “going to their game”, going on Facebook and commenting on the funny hat they wore in Disneyland? Isn’t the teacher the out-of-touch old guy with no connection to their life if he misses so fundamental of a part of it?

I know most will say things about the awkwardness of such a friendship, or that it seems too much like the actions of a child predator or the like. Well, doesn’t an old man showing up at basketball game of a bunch of 12-year-old have the same ring to it? Or has it just become so commonplace and normal that we’ve ceased thinking of it as odd? And if so, maybe it’s time to step into the 21st century and become a part of their lives, where so much of their lives reside, before we’ve totally missed the boat and an immeasurable opportunity.

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