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Teacher Identity 2.0

The mom of a former student of mine started following me on Twitter today. It was a surprise and presents a bit of a conundrum. On the one hand, up to this point I’ve mainly used Twitter to share inane updates (Quest for a Niners bar has finally come to an end.) and funny/interesting headlines (RT@TheOnion Friendship Between Caterpillar, Horse Exploited for Cheap Children’s Book http:/onion.com/5iCtj4) with friends. At the same time, it’s become increasingly clear that Twitter is not the place for privacy.

Still, while I’ve worked to maintain an appropriate public image on Twitter, I still hoped to keep it a personal space. Connecting with parents (and eventually students presumably) ends that, and blurs the space between my professional and personal realms. To paraphrase George Constanza, “My worlds are colliding!”

It seems simple enough to block this woman and any other professional contacts from following me. I just worry about her taking offense since she’s already started following me. Maybe someone with a better knowledge of Twitter can tell me whether she will have any way of noticing she’s not getting my Tweets?

Regardless of how I solve the problem, it’s definitely a new problem characteristic of the new era teaching is entering. Beyond all the political changes teaching is undergoing, it is also transforming at a rapid pace as technology evolves. I’ve found technology can provide exciting new opportunities such as the class web site I’ve used to post nightly homework, encourage parent-teacher communication and post video lessons. But it can also be unsettling, as in the case where a former student, only in the 5th grade, messages me on Facebook.

It’s not exactly groundbreaking news, but it is clear the internet is breaking down barriers between public and private identities. It will be interesting to see how that affects the “dual” identities that are common among teachers.

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