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Dear Tom - Politely refusing Facebook Request

Discussion in 'Behaviour' started by LittleStreams, Apr 7, 2011.

  1. LittleStreams

    LittleStreams New commenter

    I have a year 8 girl who is very fragile and needs a lot of support. She has taken a liking to me. She doesn't trust many adults, so it is a mini break through. She trusts me.

    The problem is, she made a request to add me on facebook, and I know I shouldn't add her. I don't want to add her. But how do I politely refuse, because I think she would take it really badly. She has such a low opinion of herself. I was thinking of explaining to her that until she is no longer a pupil of mine (I am planning on leaving the school at the end of the year) I can't add her as it isn't allowed. I did already try and explain that to her before she actually added me, but she didn't seem to understand, saying that no one would know.

    I am not going to accept her request. But I just want some advice on speaking to her about this without making her feel rejected.
  2. RaymondSoltysek

    RaymondSoltysek New commenter

    I wouldn't be proactive in explaining it to her - ignore the request and let it slide. If she persists and asks you directly why you haven't accepted, a simple "I keep Facebook for friends I've known for a very long time outside school: but of course I'll continue to help you in school" should be enough. Once you've left, the issue will wither, but I'd also let your line manager know in case a crush develops.
    Of course, you know your pupil better than anyone on here, so you're the best person to decide how to handle it.
  3. Tom_Bennett

    Tom_Bennett Occasional commenter

    Hi AZ, nice to hear from you
    I think that Brenden and Raymond have spoken wisdom. This is such a current issue that many teachers face, particularly in an era where your profile and name are in the public arena (as I believe is now compulsory on Facebook- happy for anyone to tell me if this isn't the case).
    It's great that you've made a break through with this girl, and that's a valuable relationship which could be very important in her education. But there still needs to be boundaries, and if she's fragile as you describe then she might also be needy and somewhat liable to imagine that her teachers are her friends, which isn't any use to anyone- after all, the teacher's ultimate relationship is one of authority, and the more she sees you as a pal, the more she'll demand and expect from you, and that might lead to awkwardness when she realises that you can't be a shoulder to cry on or a chum to cover for her.
    Best make it clear (as you have) as soon as possible; it means you're treating her with dignity, by saying to her, as suggested above, that you can't because it's not allowed, and you can't make an exception for her. If she says, 'No one will know,' then you say, 'I will.' And if she forces the issue, then you'll be forced to be a little bit more direct, and say, 'I don't add students, and I don't won't to.' Don't let her think that you'd love to, but only the nasty system prevents it, because some young people that age can develop unhealthy ways of interpreting reality, and start to think, 'He/ she really wants to be my friend...'
    But I also agree that I wouldn't bring it up unless she does, so that she gets the chance to get the message tacitly. Eventually she'll learn that you mean what you say, and that you have boundaries that won;t be crossed. That way, she gets an adult that she can trust, and you get a clearer, less anxious relationship with a pupil. Everyone's a winner. Also, inform your line manager about the conversations etc, so that you're covered if she (God forbid) should take things the wrong way. But it sounds like you have it all pretty much in hand.
    Good luck
  4. Well, this is a fairly reactionary, scaremongering sort of post, isn't it?
    Facebook doesn't distinguish between pupils and genuine friends from your past/present wanting to connect with you. You can either turn everything off, and be completely unsearchable, or run the (minor) risk of pupils discovering your first name (the horror, the horror) and profile picture, as they can do with mine. Obviously, I'm not drinking from a bottle of whisky on my profile picture, and my name isn't a four-letter word. That'd be silly.
    I'm fairly new in my school - several of my year 10 class started making thinly-veiled references to details of my profile picture (I'm wearing a very provactive thick red jumper) - I picked up on it straight away, a laugh was had, we discussed the reasons why this was as far as they'd ever get, and carried on with the lesson.
    Too many people on here seem to have the attitude of 'OH NO I HAVE DONE AN INTERNET - THERE GOES MY CRB!' and it's damaging. It's almost as harmful as adding current pupils as friends. A mature discussion of why you can't have this girl as a 'friend' will be beneficial to the both of you.
    It's not that big a deal - if you're that worried, tell someone in SMT that she's tried to add you, but you've turned it down and explained the reasons why. Nothing to lose sleep over, and certainly nothing to turn Witchfinder General over.
  5. coaltown1

    coaltown1 New commenter

    I don't believe this is scaremongering at all - rather some sensible advice given.
    In my school we are advised to be careful what is on your Facebook page and also report any children trying to be your friend (this has happened a number of times to various teachers and I teach primary). The management then contacts the parents to make them aware of what their children are doing on the internet. I do not include a photo on my home page and use my maiden name.
    Some teachers have included compromising drunk photos of themselves - a tad unwise.
    As a profession we have to be professional. That includes everything that is out there in the public domain. Whist it won't likely affect your CRB it may well affect how parents and children perceive you.
  6. The only things that 'non-friends' of mine can see are:
    • My profile picture (featuring aforementioned hugely provocative red jummy)
    • My full name
    • One of my networks
    • That's it - no marital status, no children, no other photos, no photos anybody else has tagged of me, no videos, no notes, no anything that isn't one of the first three bullet points.
    If I had a previous name, maiden name or whatever, I wouldn't use it. I have no problems with pupils, parents or colleagues knowing that I have a Facebook account, or indeed a penchant for knitwear. Admittedly, I teach 11-18 year olds, but I don't care about them knowing my first name. It's school policy to allow pupils to contact you through the school email system (indispensible for hounding KS4/5 about coursework), so they can access my name anyway. Similarly, they all know what I look like... That said, the vast majority of my pupils are old enough to have Facebook, so I guess it's less of an issue than for primary kids.
    Any teacher that allows pupils access to compromising pictures of themselves should be shot, shot again, and then have their QTS status removed for sheer idiocy. But that's their problem, and will never be mine - to quote Gabriel Utterson, "I let my brother go to the devil in his own way."
    However, and I believe this with every ventricle of my cynical, icy heart - teachers who demonise Facebook, the over-cautious, the nervous and the suspicious are doing almost as much damage to our professional credibility as those horrible members of the profession who use social networking to prey on vulnerable pupils.
  7. YesMrBronson

    YesMrBronson New commenter

    People only have limited control over what pictures of them appear on facebook. Suppose someone who went to your college/University decides to put a compromising photo of you and your Uni friends on THEIR account. There is nothing you can do about this except ask them to remove it. They don't have to remove it just because you asked them to.
    Remember, this might not be a photo of you drunk. Perhaps you just look a bit rough (no make up/bad hair/bad clothes).
    Anyone can put a picture of anyone on the net. Even if you left facebook the photo would still be there.
  8. However, if you aren't tagged in it, it's next to impossible for a kid to find it, unless they're friends with your friends, which is kind of odd in itself.
  9. RaymondSoltysek

    RaymondSoltysek New commenter

    My goodness - someone with a sense of proportion!
  10. I pride myself in being well proportioned; I am almost as wide as I am tall.
    You can pursue some sort of weird, cloistered existence and hide away from all forms of close encounters of the pupil kind, or you can have a normal social life, occasionally bump into them in Morrisons when you have a hangover and run the risk of a photo of yourself made up like Gene Simmons making it into the wrong hands. I know which I'd rather.
    I'm making myself out to be some sort of deviant alcoholic here - I'm really not; I just refuse to let my life be dictated by my career, and I think I'm a better teacher for it.
  11. YesMrBronson

    YesMrBronson New commenter

    If you live locally (to the school)...
    • Your old college/uni/school aquaintences may well be parents or friends of parents of your pupils.
    • Kids can snap a picture of you in Asda and post that.
    • Kids who've left the school can also do that (you cannot police this).
    • Kids friends from other schools can post the pictures.
    As for tagging; you can remove a tag but the photo host can re-tag it easily.
  12. There is nothing you can do about any of these things. You might as well worry about getting hit by a runaway bus everytime you cross the road.
    Obviously, I do my best to make sure that my Twitter and Facebook accounts are as secure as possible, and I'd like to think that I'm more tech-savvy than most, but should someone wish to, they could probably drag up a few interesting pictures of me. Then again, they could also get my bank details and leave me destitute. Or they could fly a plane into my house. Chances are, they won't.
  13. coaltown1

    coaltown1 New commenter

    I can see from your posts that you have a good sense of humour - as teachers that is a valuable asset. You make valid points too which I agree with.
    I think the key here is commonsense and balance.
    I don't think anyone either hides away or pretends to lead anything other than a normal life. As a motorbike riding teacher of very mature years (with many different hobbies and full social life) I have met various pupils and parents in different places and always with a smile and a blether.
    However there is a part of me I like to keep private and one of these is my Facebook page which I keep for family and personal friends. To me it would be like inviting my class in to my home and family life - there are some things which I feel they should not be privy to and like you, I also refuse to let my life be ruled by my career.
    I don't believe the internet is something to be scared of but, just as I wouldn't knowingly allow my bank details to be known by all and sundry, it needs to be used sensibly and with awareness. (We have just had to talk with our classes about internet safety and it was quite an eye-opener to find out how many of these young children put all kinds of photos on their Facebook page and didn't understand that anyone could access them. I could see them without being a friend.)
    Have just read back my post and realise I sound like an old fuddy-duddy! Ah well, off out on the bike later. That'll clear the cobwebs.
  14. [​IMG]
    Aye - I think I can agree with this. So long as you know how to keep things under wraps, there's not a lot to be worried about.
    That said, I've made mistakes in the past - I remember being a student teacher and playing with my band; unbeknown to me, a few older-looking year 11s had sneaked in. It was a Friday night, I was younger and freer of responsibility than I am now, and I was suitably Friday nighted. That took some playing down.
  15. I agree with the other posters on a sense of proportion. I would also be careful though with who your friends are on Facebook and show them limits on how you expect them to use information about you. I think that´s why it´s best to keep Facebook to close family and friends. This is not only in terms of job-related considerations but also due to a sense of privacy and to avoid cluttering Facebook and the Internet with personal things that other people probably aren´t (or shouldn´t!) be that interested in.
    I have a close family member (not a blood relative) that takes lots of photos and posts them on FB. I untagged myself in them the first time she did it with photos of me as I think there were too many (about 20) and they were photos of a private, intimate family gathering which I didn´t care to share with the world, or even all my friends. She got the hint and stopped tagging me (and also stopped taking so many photos of me). If she hadn´t, I would have talked to her about my sense of privacy.
    If she hadn´t been close to me, I would have removed her as a friend (but then someone more distant wouldn´t have had so many family photos of me to share).
  16. Is it also worth noting that when you decline a friend request facebook gives you the option to block future requests from that person ensuring that they can no longer search for you and send you a friend request?
  17. All these are good tips; know your internets, people. I've had friend requests from pupils (I had a huge amount when I left my old place at Christmas), and yes, you can deny further requests. It's useful, otherwise they'll keep trying.
  18. What a wonderful world we live in. Take heed from the above. It's all grown up and sensible until one of our "friends" takes a dislike to you for whatever reason. Perish the thought that you'd have to answer those loaded questions that the Child Protection Gestapo put to you. Two colleagues have paid the price. Be warned!
  19. YesMrBronson

    YesMrBronson New commenter

    Yes they can. They just place the tag slightly to the left or right of where it was before.
  20. YesMrBronson

    YesMrBronson New commenter

    I am not worried about any of it. I simply pointed out that your assertions of how much one can control on facebook weren't totally correct.

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