Privacy is a constant concern and battle for teachers. Keeping public and private life separate is a constant battle. I believe that it is professional to keep those two worlds apart. To be successful in the classroom, your private life should not be on display. To have an enjoyable private life, you shouldn't bring work home with you. I think most people feel similar about their own jobs. Not living near school gives me some of that privacy, being about to go out without having to worry about running into students. I really don't want to see them when I'm out to eat, at a movie, or coming out of a bar.
I often say that teachers have a mask or classroom persona. My classroom persona is very different than how I am in reality. Students are extraordinarily curious. They keep pushing for more information, trying to find new ways to connect the seemingly random dots of information that they've already figured out. My classroom persona is a defense mechanism to protect my privacy while at the same time giving the students enough that they believe they know me.
I use facebook to share pictures and keep up with distant friends. I used to have my profile on total lockdown, but facebook recently changed the privacy settings so that anybody can see your profile picture. This opened myself, and I'm sure all other teachers to a barrage of facebook friend invites from students.
This week as students were pouring into class I hear, "Hey Mister, I saw you on facebook!" Uh,oh. Not again. I readied my typical answer that I cannot accept their friend invite for this and that reason, but no offense intended. "Yeah, they started a fan page!" A fan page is what you join if you like the Pittsburg Steelers, Peter's Chinese Restaurant, or Barack Obama. It's somewhere you show support for whatever you're a fan of, and talk to others who feel the same. Wow, I thought, how flattering. I looked at the page and found it acceptable. No real information, just classroom tid bits that the kids enjoyed. I was feeling really good. Who else has their own fan page? None of the other teachers do. They have fan pages about how much they are hated, not how they are "boss," meaning awesome. So on facebook I put on my profile that the kids had made a fan page of me. A friend told me "Wow, you must be doing something right."
There is a Seinfeld episode that comes to mind. George tries to keep his life with his fiance Susan, separate from his life with Jerry, Kramer, and Elaine. In one episode his worlds collide, leading him to claim it's "killing independent George." Unfortunately my worlds collided. Some of my friends thought it would be fun to join my fan page. They said these kids need to know the real thing. They didn't understand. I spent days convincing people that it was for the kids only.
As George said about himself, "A George divided against itself cannot stand!"I was used to my students trying to intrude into my private life, and I never thought that people would try to pry into my professional life. In a strange reversal I found myself battling to keep my private life from infiltrating my public life. The worlds are not a ven diagram. They must remain separate and unequal.