I just completed listening and watching the recorded session with George Couros titled “Becoming a Networked Educational Leader” (you can find the recorded Blackboard Collaborate session here). Once again George reflected on many amazing examples of how being connected to students, families and staff has improved their experiences all round. It’s not hard to listen to what either Couros bros (insert nintendo characters here) has to say and the crowd cheered, ooohed and ahhhhed at all appropriate moments. That is, all but one! Throughout the conversation George questioned how we get our administrators connected? Many in that chat stream contributed examples of their own and all supported George in his assertion that connectedness is paramount. There was one brave voice amongst the crowd…..antiface. I should have known by the name that he (assumption) was going to challenge the convention that had arisen. I applaud his (?) gumption to speak out against the tide of nodding heads and agreement and express his (?) point of view.
The following is part of the dialogue that antiface evoked…
antiface : Do you really want to connect with students via social media? I wouldn’t.
Maha : @antiface why wouldn’t you want to connect with students that way?
bonstewart : would you not want your kids’ teachers/leaders to connect?
antiface : I don’t need my teachers to connect with me outside of school.
anitface : I think they work hard enough.
Kirsten Tscholen : you are right. What happens to boundaries? I need time with my family.
antiface : maybe it’s just me, I don’t want to spend time with my doctor either.
I found this conversation really confronting. I was desperate to join in, unfortunately 36 hours too late! I hold dear the connections I have with my students and their families. I have always had an open door policy and endeavour to provide as many authentic opportunities to share my students learning with families as I possibly can.
When social media wasn’t available for me to connect with families, I was constantly writing notes, printing off tags to explain learning to be pasted in books, calling families, writing to families and I constructed weekly news with photos of student work, class activities and events. This format restricted me to perhaps a page or two each week, 1 or 2 photos each time and normally no more than one students work showcased but I honestly believe that I gained so much by communicating with parents and investing my time to listen and inform them about what was happening in our classroom.
Now that social media IS available to me, opportunities have just increased and I am able to connect with families in a more immediate and authentic manner. Using edmodo I can post photos of our learning at any point in time. Students can engage in their learning online and it is immediately visible to their families. I can update instantly, request support, add links for information and add reminders for my students, all in real time.
Does this increase the invasion of my “personal time” – YES! I do get edmodo messages from students and parents at night, on the weekend and during the holidays. I also get text messages and emails! I have visited my students in hospital and I engage with them and their families when we cross paths in public.
Do I feel I HAVE to respond/engage? – No. I respond because I know that the rewards are greater than the few minutes it takes to talk/type/text/post. Plus I kinda actually like kids (call me crazy).
I gain so much from engaging my families, but my greatest reward is TRUST!
The relationships I have built with my families means they trust me when I turn the curriculum upside down, when I challenge their children to try things they have never before. They may hold their breath a little, but they support me nevertheless. They know I have their child’s best interests at heart, that I am invested in their growth and success.
So in response to the chat dialogue..
Do I really want to connect with my students via social media? – ABSOLUTELY! Does this mean I am FB friends, not at all.
What happens to boundaries? I need to spend time with my family. – This, you need to construct for yourself. I don’t think it is healthy for families to have an expectation that you will respond 24/7 but what is wrong with being contactable 24/7?
Maybe it’s just me, I don’t want to connect with my doctor either. – Anyone who saw their doctor 7 hours a day, 5 days a week, 40 weeks a year, would have a pretty intimate relationship! I expect even a few house calls 😉
Obviously I am in disagreement with antiface on this topic of using social media to connect, however, I am grateful for the courage and stoicism he(?) displayed challenging an overwhelming tide. So many thanks to antiface for provoking dialogue!
Another post will be devoted to anitface’s thoughts on SM and introverts! To be continued……..