Facebook and Students: Why Can’t We Be Friends?

Or can we be friends?

Core Knowledge Blog has a post on the issue of students and facebooking. I was thinking earlier today about that very question.

I give students my home number, but not my cell. I have office hours. I have met students at restaurants to study and talk.

fb-theaterBut I have not friended them on facebook. And I don’t intend to.

One issue that students sometimes have with teachers is that they know too much of their private life. If they’re my friends on fb, they will know too much about my private life.

Also, some students don’t understand that being my “friend” doesn’t mean the grades improve.

So I don’t facebook my students.

I have, in the past, been friendly with students. I was actually friends for years with a student who had been in my composition class. I used to have all my classes over to my house for dinner together. It was fun, but some of the students didn’t get that I was still the teacher. So I don’t do that anymore. And I think that I am carrying the wisdom from that experience over to facebook.

I would love to facebook past students. I’d like to keep up with their lives and encourage them.

But I won’t friend my present students because the line between appropriate and inappropriate is just too blurry. I’d rather keep the gap bigger, just in case someone disagrees on where that line actually is.

Teachers care.

That’s what the emails from the English department to and about the Virginia Tech shooter show.

They knew there were problems. They were trying to deal with them. They helped him as much as they could. They looked for ways to keep him successful.

It is also true they didn’t recognize some warning signs, but hindsight is simpler than the warnings appear in the rapid pace of real-life living.

And, yes, I do know his name. But I make it a policy to forget the evil and remember the good.

Liviu Librescue deserves to be remembered. He was a Holocaust survivor who vowed to never let his students be taken and when the time came, he stood by that vow. Every single one of his students at Virginia Tech got out safely. He died. His is a name worth remembering.

My CC2 students noted that his name ends with “rescue.” I told them that “libre” means free. He appears to have been aptly named.

What would you do with a shooter in the hall? I carry a glass-breaker in my purse and tell my students where it is. I tell them that if we all rush him, even a gunman is likely to go down. I talk them through the exits and the safest ways to be stuck in the room if escape proves impossible.

I consider that part of the education I am responsible for sharing with them.

They ask me if I will, like Librescue, stand between them and death. That is a very scary question. I don’t have an answer I like.

128-word philosophy of education

Learning is one of the greatest joys in my life and I want to pass that love of learning on to my students.

Great teachers have a passion for teaching and for their subject matter. They teach communication through writing and speaking and prepare their students for critical thinking and research.  Great teachers make the information available to the students in a way the students can understand.  The great teachers also concentrate on providing intense and focused learning environments as well as the encouragement for students to learn which equip the students to function well throughout their lives, both personally and professionally. 

Learning is a responsibility, a privilege, and a great deal of fun.  I want my students to realize that and have experienced it in my classroom. 


Short teaching philosophy:

I found a fifty-word teaching philosophy at So You Want to Teach?, and since I am working on my cv and philosophy and so forth, I decided I would try it. Here’s my first (and maybe last) attempt at describing my practical approach to teaching:

Learning is fun and reading and writing are essential skills. Because practice increases competence, students practice a lot. They read and analyze; they write and revise their work. Assignments have clear real-world applications and I model how to read or write the assignments. In addition, questions or prewriting helps guide them through the topic before they begin writing.

Writing in the social sciences: introductory information

Philosophy of the Social Sciences

The course I will be teaching is not a philosophy of social sciences, but I ought to do some reading in it before I head on out to teach.

Prof. Smith at Calvin College has a Philosophy of the Social Sciences course from which I took the following:

This course will investigate the foundational assumptions at work in the social sciences. Emerging in the wake of modernity and in concert with the rise of positivism, the social sciences have, since the beginning, been concerned with basic philosophical questions when reflecting on “method.” What does it mean to have “scientific” knowledge of the “social” world? What counts as “knowledge?” What is “science” in such a context? How has our understanding of “science” changed after the demise of positivism? What are the implications of hermeneutics for scientific observation and the notion of “objectivity?” And what are the implications of that for the project of the social sciences? Is positivism still with us? How are we to understand the “social?” Just what are human beings, and thus what is the nature of human community? Is social science merely descriptive, or also critical and prescriptive?

He also offers some additional readings which sound interesting.

Lori Gottlieb, “How Do I Love Thee? The New Science of Love,” The Atlantic Monthly (March 2006): 58- 70.
Daniel Izuzquiza, “Can a Gift Be Wrapped? John Milbank and Supernatural Sociology,” Heythrop Journal 67 (2006): 387-404.

Here is another Phil of soc sci, with lecture notes and audio of the foundation of philosophy in social science.

Preparing and Writing in the Social Sciences

Dr. Flaxman of Brown’s Writing Program wrote a paper on how teachers create writing assignments. The following quote provides language that I found useful.

In the Writing Fellows Program we distinguish three kinds of student writing: pre-socialized, socialized, and post-socialized. In all three cases, we describe the level of student sophistication in contextual terms. The process of education, in this model, is one of initiating students into the conventions of a particular discourse. First-year students at Brown who have never taken a course in Economics, for example, are termed “pre-socialized” to the conventions of writing Economics. Once they learn the vocabulary and conventions of writing in this discourse, they are “socialized” to the discourse. And, some, having learned the proper way to communicate economic concepts, begin to play with these conventions consciously, becoming “post-socialized” to the discourse.

In that same paper, Dr. Flaxman presents the case for the developmental model of writing, where each point is more complex than the one before. I think that will work very well with the social sciences class.

Dartmouth offers some good advice on stylistic differences between the social sciences and the humanities.

Understand, however, that writing for a particular discipline means more than simply writing good sentences. Every discipline has a preferred writing style. If you are a Humanities student, you will certainly be somewhat put off by the style of writing in the Social Sciences. The paragraphs seem surprisingly short, the sentences remarkably unremarkable, and what’s up with that pesky passive voice?

In the Social Sciences, sentences must be well-crafted but they mustn’t be “flowery.” The reader mustn’t feel that the writer is relying more on rhetoric than she is on evidence. Paragraphs must also be well-crafted and coherent, but they mustn’t belabor the point. Digressing to interesting but not immediately relevant observations is discouraged. In short, the Social Science paper should report clearly, concisely, thoroughly, and objectively the writer’s findings.

Finally, the Humanities student will find it difficult getting accustomed to the passive voice used in most Social Science papers. Perhaps it will help to understand that this voice is used for a reason: to keep the observer out of the narrative. Consider: “I observed no significant increase in aggressive behavior” vs. “No significant increase in aggressive behavior was observed.” In the second, passive sentence the observation seems more objective and impersonal, cut loose from the very subjective “I.”