Recently, I have had students discover my @TheNerdyTeacher Twitter account and follow me. It usually only lasts a few days before they unfollow me -- a few days of my flooding their feed with blog posts, education news and Edutopia articles. The big question I get from kids is, "Why don't you follow me back?" I tell them that I have some guidelines when it comes to Twitter and following students. I thought it would be great if I shared them with all of you that use Twitter as part of your education life.
1) Have a School-Only Account
@TheNerdyTeacher is my personal/business account. I use that to connect with educators from all over the world, and it is not a place for me to connect with students from my school. @MrProvenzano is my school account, and I use that to connect with my students and others interested only in school-related tweets. It's wise to have a divide in the personal and work tweets when possible. If students still want to follow the @TheNerdyTeacher account, they are welcome to, but I will not follow them back from that account.
2) Create a Set of Follow Rules to Share with Students
I always follow a student back if he or she follows me on my school account, but then I tweet them some guidelines that I stick to when following students. I tell them that if they use profane language on a regular basis, I will unfollow them immediately. Although they have the right to tweet what they want, I have the right not to see filthy tweets fill my stream. I also tell them I'm obligated, by law, to report any illegal behavior I might see on a student's Twitter feed. They need to be very careful about what types of things they tweet and what pictures they share. Lastly, I tell students, "If you would not tell me to my face what you want to tweet, you probably should not tweet it. If you do, I reserve the right to unfollow you."
3) Limit the DMs
There will be times when students will DM me a question that might be something they do not want to share with the entire Twitter stream. Sometimes it's about a missing assignment or bad grade. It doesn't happen often, but when it does, I direct students to see me or send me an email. I like Twitter because it is a public stream that anyone can check. Some people might raise an eyebrow if teachers and students are communicating behind the privacy of DMs. It's something to keep in mind for even the best intentioned teachers.
By following these three guidelines, I have a great Twitter relationship with my students. Some will follow me and I will follow them back without problems. If I see a tweet that might be bad or inappropriate, I will talk to the student and tell them to be careful of what they tweet and the possible consequences that could stem from that kind of communication. They are usually very apologetic, and some have even deleted those tweets. Thanks to two amazing students, @Sam_Metry95 and @WintersComb, for chatting with me about these issues.