Aug 8, 201409:56 AM
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Are Facebook friendships between teachers and parents problematic?
There is a saying that if you “do what you love as a career,” you’ll “never work a day in your life.” I guess that’s somewhat true. I’ve loved magazines and language and reading and writing since pretty much forever, and so I majored in magazine editing and have spent the past 10 years of my professional life editing and writing for magazines. And I do love my job. The flipside of that, though, is that if you do what you love for work, it can be hard to figure out what exactly to do in your leisure time. I no longer want to read magazines for fun because I am constantly critiquing the design of the ToC (table of contents), fretting over the ad placement, cringing at typos, thinking of alternate headlines that would have been better, wondering why they chose the cutlines they did, and so on.
As a result, I don’t subscribe to any magazines these days, but I do still get copies of Parents magazine for some reason – I think they signed me up at the pediatrician’s office or something. I don’t normally read them, but this one promised “easy ideas for lunches kids will actually eat,” and I fell for it. As it happens, Ruby will not eat a damn one of these lunches – creamy carrot salad? Avocado and roasted red pepper in a pita? Egg salad with crackers? Seriously, do these people even know any children? – but once I started reading the magazine, I was driven by my lifelong compulsion to finish it.
Most of it was fine, well-meaning stuff like the lunches that ultimately wasn’t helpful but didn’t really bother me. Hell, I might even try the white bean dip with pita crackers for myself, even if Ruby won’t touch it. But near the end, I got to an advice column, and I got seriously pissed off by one of the question-and-answers.
Granted, I am more than just a bit on edge these days. I am working full-time; the school-age kids in my house are whining about being bored with summer but not wanting school to start; Georgia, my baby, my sweet tiny baby, is starting school on Monday after more than two years at home with my mom watching her, and I can’t even bear to think about how much I am going to miss the ease and convenience and just basic perfection of that arrangement; and also I am moving in a week, and we don’t yet have countertops or floors.
So maybe I was just primed to get mad. That’s almost certainly it.
But the question was: “There are some parents in my kids’ elementary school who I can’t help noticing are Facebook friends with a few teachers. They ‘like’ teacher posts, tag teachers when they proudly post their kids’ school projects, and sometimes write posts about the need for teacher appreciation. Teachers will ‘like’ or comment in return. I worry this creates a culture of favoritism. Should I air my concerns to the principal?”
The answer first confirmed that this behavior, which the columnist characterized as “fawn[ing] over teachers,” was annoying. She said that the principal should definitely crack down on this behavior and added a P.S. that said “In the meantime, use the handy ‘I don’t want to see this’ option on FB to hide brown-nosing posts that make you want to puke.”
I can see both sides of this – I truly can. If Ruby’s school were to create a policy that teachers could not be on Facebook or could not communicate with parents on Facebook, I would be supportive of that. I can definitely see a problem developing if parents or teachers didn’t use basic common sense and posted nasty things about each other – or worse still, if teachers posted negative things about the kids in their classroom.
But as of right now, I am guilty of every one of the things the letter writer condemns – guilty but not sorry. I am friends with Ruby’s kindergarten and first grade teachers, as well as several other teachers at her school. I love seeing the cute stories they post about how much they love the kids in their class, and yes, I click the “like” button when I see them. When Ruby’s teachers have gone above and beyond, I did post about how thankful I was to have them in her life, complete with a tag back to their page so that they would be sure to see the post. And during teacher appreciation week, I absolutely used Facebook to drum up support among other parents on Facebook.
I highly doubt that any of that created a “culture of favoritism.” I know these teachers well enough to know that they truly do love all of the kids, and the ones they favor typically are not the ones whose parents are posting every little thing their child does on Facebook. The kids that get singled out for special treatment, at least in Ruby’s classes, are the ones whose parents can’t make it to the school play or can’t afford to send money for the book fair. I have personally seen teachers at Ruby’s school give their own money and their own food, to say nothing of a little extra love, to kids who were hurting in some way.
But let’s say being Facebook friends with a teacher does create a culture of favoritism. Do I feed into the same culture of favoritism by being the room mother? Volunteering at a few field trips? Holding a leadership position on the PTA? Working a booth at the school fair? I don’t think so, but even if it did create this biased culture, what is anyone supposed to do about it? Should the parents who worry about favoritism try to do more? Should the parents who are involved in the school do less? Or should we all just do whatever we can do or even just whatever we want to do and trust that the teachers are professional enough to be able to sort it all out? Bringing Facebook into it is silly; this is just new technology being dragged into an age-old debate.
The way I see it, we are all part of a team. Facebook is just one more tool to help us communicate effectively, and I am pretty upset that the idea of trying to show public gratitude for these teachers – who I fully believe are heroes, and I want anyone who thinks otherwise to spend a day trying to do their jobs – is considered “brown-nosing” or is done with some kind of devious, scheming intent to help my kid gain an edge in kindergarten or first grade, for Pete’s sake! I don’t want Ruby to be given special consideration at any point; I want her to learn how to be a decent human being.
And honestly, even though I am Facebook friends with some of the teachers, I don’t hang out with them outside of school, even though I know some parents do. That doesn’t make me feel threatened, though. It’s not like I see that Bobby’s mom took a yoga class with the Spanish teacher and immediately think that he will be treated better than Ruby as a result. That’s insanity. When I see parents and teachers interacting on Facebook and in real life, my reaction is always the same: I am happy to see that both online and off-, we are living up to the “community” part of Morris Jeff Community School. It is a community I am honored to be a part of, and if that sounds like kissing up, so be it.
What do you think about parents and teachers being friends on Facebook?