Spent time in my classroom today cleaning desks, putting furniture in place. I am setting up my room to be the multi-functional environment it needs to be. Around the perimeter are the computers. There are 12 of them. Those will be for research and word processing. Students will have to share. I may need to come up with a system that keeps track of who uses them and lets them sign up to reserve one. I have 16 student desks and then four rectangular tables with chairs for collaboration. The nice thing about this is that it makes falling back into a traditional teaching format of direct instruction and lecture very difficult. I like that. It’s me committing to rethinking how I teach and deliver instruction.
I want the room to be clean and in order. Right away that communicates to my students several things. First, it says that I have a plan and that I am in charge of the environment. The cleanliness says that this is a professional environment. It also says that I care enough to get it ready for them. I took the time to decorate, to arrange, to plan. The orientation of the room also should tell them that they are not in a normal Language Arts class.
I also wrote my Social Media information on the board. I am setting up a blog just for my classes to keep it separate from this personal information and, sometimes, nonsense here. I also set up a separate Twitter account just for my students. I will also keep that free from my political or personal tweets. I then set up a Facebook page for my class. I will use this to communicate with parents and students about assignments and other work. Between these three I think I will be able to broaden the class beyond the room and meet these digital natives where they live.
Much has been made of the “dangers” of engaging with students this way. Some say that it can make it too easy for inappropriate relationships with students. Well, sure, I guess. But, teachers have been having inappropriate relationships with students WITHOUT these social tools. I thought about it and realized that I separate my private life from my students in a lot of ways. So, if I maintain these professional, teacherly outlets then it should help maintain the boundaries between me and the students.
In my opinion, people who have inappropriate relationships with students are going to do that with or without Twitter or Facebook. Someone interested in that sort of thing will find a way. I think you either are, or you are not. It’s not an accident. So, for me, the important thing is to be able to show that my actions were proper. Twitter and Facebook pages are great for that because they are so public. Anyone can “like” my Facebook page (Mr. Poirier’s Junior English Class, if you’re interested) or follow MisterGRPoirier on Twitter. My principal and the entire school board can do it, and I wish they would! I will have a public record of my interactions with the students should any untoward allegations be made. But, they won’t. In my experience, when you treat students with respect and professionalism, it is obvious to all. Plus, I am encouraging my parents to follow, too. The blog has a translation button at the bottom, even, if their language isn’t English.
I’m pretty excited. It has been a busy summer and it flew by. But, now I have 152 students enrolled in my classes and it’s almost time to get cooking and burning in the classroom, as Mr. Valencia used to say. I can’t wait to get them reading and writing and thinking. I am looking forward to them having their own blogs and connecting with other classes blogging as well. It’s going to be fun!