This week something great happened: two of my former students connected with me on Facebook. Three years ago, I taught writing at a small college in New Hampshire, and the new friend requests reminded me of how great it is to see what your former students are up to years later, as well as how difficult it can be to be a teacher.
Teachers work with an audience that is by definition impressionable. This means that being a teacher comes with the added responsibility of also being a public figure. As with most jobs, the extra-curricular life of a... teacher has professional consequences, which is especially important on Facebook where people are more connected and sharing more often.
Some teachers stay away from Facebook altogether, while others — like some of my friends — have found creative workarounds such as only accepting friend requests from students who've graduated or those who are over the age of 18. However, it doesn't have to be that difficult. In fact, it is useful and rewarding to connect with your students on Facebook. So, in honor of all the people who are heading back to school this month, here are some tips for using Facebook.
Create Friend Lists
You can sort your friends into lists, without them even knowing it. For instance, if you're a teacher, you can create a Friend List called "students" and adjust your privacy settings to control what people in that list see. You then could allow students to see basic information about you and maybe your photo albums from a recent trip you took, but not photos in which you've been tagged.
You can create a named list to organize your relationships in whichever way works best for you: close friends, family, acquaintances, colleagues, students, among others. Just select the "Create a List" link on the left-hand side of the home page or create a new list from your Friends Page. Each time you receive a friend request, you'll have the option to add that person to the appropriate list as you accept them.
By using the Friend Lists you've created, you also can filter your home page to get updates from the people you're interested in. If you're a teacher, you can see what your students are sharing on the site by filtering for that group from the left-hand side of the page. If one group is most important to you, you can even set it as the default view for your home page by dragging it to the top of the left hand bar.
Check Your Privacy Settings
Don't be afraid to severely restrict what certain people can see. For instance, if you're a teacher, you may not invite a student to a dinner party with friends, and the same goes for your boss or other people you don't interact with in those types of social settings. You should use your Facebook privacy settings to reflect the types of relationships you have.
Once you've created your Friend Lists, you can use them to customize privacy levels for different information and content you include on your Profile. Select the "Settings" link located on the top menu bar and navigate to the Profile section of your Privacy page. From there, you can select "Edit Custom Settings," which will open a field for "Except These People." Adding a friend or Friend List here will exclude those people from seeing the information in question about you.
For example, maybe you want your close friends to see your favorite activities and your contact information so they can reach you easily, but you don't want your students to see those sections of your profile. You can exclude your "students" list from seeing the "Personal Information" and specific "Contact Information" sections of your profile.
We hope these suggestions can not only help students and teachers connect, but help all of you share with even more people in your lives.
Jesse, a training and communications lead, is a teacher here at Facebook.