In my district school doesn’t start until Labor Day. During the summer months I find that I do nothing for most of July and start to get excited again around August. One of the only things that I do maintain during my “sloth time” is my teacher Facebook account. Now, I know there will be a lot of people who disagree with putting yourself out there on Facebook, but I’m here to tell you that it has transformed my teaching in ways I couldn’t even imagine.
Let’s look at some of my biggest hurdles as an urban high school teacher:
* Behavior– Any urban teacher knows that she has to be a rockstar in the classroom. If you don’t own that place you get eaten alive.
* Parent Involvement- Not only are parents busy working, but add low income and non-English speaking and I can promise that you will never speak to any parent on the phone. Ever. Same goes for traditional parent teacher conferences.
*Homework- I find it on the floor, it gets stuffed in a bag, handed in at the end of the marking period. I waste trees on a regular basis.
Enter Facebook. Most of us that are of a certain age have a Facebook page and we’ve all heard and/or experienced to misuse and abuse of social media and the mass sharing of personal information. However, Facebook is a tool, and used correctly is one of the most powerful ones an urban teacher has.
Let me explain:
* Behavior- Never underestimate the smallest kindess or personal connection. If you don’t connect with your students, you are bound to have behavior problems. Facebook allows a restricted outlet for you to learn and connect with your students personal lives. My page has basic personal information and some photos of my with my cats. You can not imagine how many students “like” and talk about my cats like they know them. It’s silly, but the students are on their way to seeing you as a person, not just a talking head.
* Parental Involvement: Did you know that Facebook interfaces in a zillion languages? When I type a message in English, all a student or parent has to do it hit “translate” and Facebook automatically translates that message. It’s not always perfect, but parents can monitor classroom projects, send messages and convey concerns in their own language, building a bridge to their child’s educational experience.
* Homework: If I didn’t sell you yet, this will. I have a 95% completion rate for homework assignments. I also should tell you that I assign homework 4x per week. How? Facebook. I upload all assignments blast status updates as reminders. It takes me about 5 minutes on my iphone and does four things.
1. Takes away all excuses for not getting the homework.- A child may not have a computer at home, but by high school they have an ipod or a phone.
2. Differentiation and Accessibility- I always hand out paper copies, but if they forget they can click on Facebook and see the assignment. They then have the option of handing it in via private message or writing it out. The private messages go right to my school email that I check at the beginning of the day and mark off who has turned what in.
3. Proof- Many urban schools are asking how we can show that we have gone above and beyond to make sure that the student has options for learning. High school students spend their lives on social media and their phones. Not only are you giving options, but you can bring up your page and prove it!
4. Shared Accountability– Hopefully parents are monitoring their student’s Facebook page and help remind students to do the work. I find that the students also remind each other of the assignments. I see “Can someone help me with question X?” posts on a regular basis and when doing group work partners often create their own threads to “talk” back and forth outside of school.
There are so many more things to talk about… I think I will have to do Facebook-Round 2!
Until then I challenge you to think about how you can use Facebook as a tool to reach and teach your students.
Copyright: ©Kelly LaLonde, and urbanesl, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.