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Keeping in touch with former students - ambiguous guidelines

Discussion in 'Personal' started by AJonesey, Aug 16, 2011.

  1. I would welcome advice on this. I recently left my school to take up a position in another school, and would like to keep in touch with a couple of trustworthy students I have taught who are now 18 and have also left. I am female and some of them are male, which is where I am concerned things can be misconstrued. I have read similar posts on here, and find the suspicion surrounding this quite disturbing. I have always found it problematic that, in a profession which is deemed to be 'caring', it has been insinuated that I care too much about my students' well being, simply because I care when they do well, am upset when they don't, bother to talk to them when they are upset, and am not driven by my own ambition but by wanting them to succeed. I do not understand why a teacher and student can not strike up a friendship without there being questions raised about unsavoury motives.
    I have been asked for a drink by a small group of students who I taught for several years who are now 18 and have left, and, having done exactly the same with one of my ex teachers in the summer after finishing my A Levels, initially agreed in principle, but have had concerns since about whether this would be deemed unprofessional or something I could be struck off for. I have considered asking a friend to come along as well, not because I don't trust the students (which I do completely), but because I want to ensure that I am protected from scrutiny.
    The GTP states that teachers should use their judgement, and I have arrived at the conclusion that, as long as it is in a public place, I am not meeting with a student on a one to one basis, and I conduct myself as I would do in front of my headteacher (e.g. dress, behaviour, not getting drunk or divulging details about school or colleagues), I am not breaking any rules.
    I don't think there is anything wrong with remaining interested in the lives of people we play a part in, as long as we always have their safety in mind, so do not need nasty comments casting aspersions over my professionality or moral conduct, but I would appreciate advice on whether I am breaking any laws IF I decided to go ahead. I would find it very sad not to be able to keep in touch because of what other people might think.
     
    aquamarine999 likes this.
  2. I would welcome advice on this. I recently left my school to take up a position in another school, and would like to keep in touch with a couple of trustworthy students I have taught who are now 18 and have also left. I am female and some of them are male, which is where I am concerned things can be misconstrued. I have read similar posts on here, and find the suspicion surrounding this quite disturbing. I have always found it problematic that, in a profession which is deemed to be 'caring', it has been insinuated that I care too much about my students' well being, simply because I care when they do well, am upset when they don't, bother to talk to them when they are upset, and am not driven by my own ambition but by wanting them to succeed. I do not understand why a teacher and student can not strike up a friendship without there being questions raised about unsavoury motives.
    I have been asked for a drink by a small group of students who I taught for several years who are now 18 and have left, and, having done exactly the same with one of my ex teachers in the summer after finishing my A Levels, initially agreed in principle, but have had concerns since about whether this would be deemed unprofessional or something I could be struck off for. I have considered asking a friend to come along as well, not because I don't trust the students (which I do completely), but because I want to ensure that I am protected from scrutiny.
    The GTP states that teachers should use their judgement, and I have arrived at the conclusion that, as long as it is in a public place, I am not meeting with a student on a one to one basis, and I conduct myself as I would do in front of my headteacher (e.g. dress, behaviour, not getting drunk or divulging details about school or colleagues), I am not breaking any rules.
    I don't think there is anything wrong with remaining interested in the lives of people we play a part in, as long as we always have their safety in mind, so do not need nasty comments casting aspersions over my professionality or moral conduct, but I would appreciate advice on whether I am breaking any laws IF I decided to go ahead. I would find it very sad not to be able to keep in touch because of what other people might think.
     
  3. One of my old English teachers is friends with a lot of her ex students on Facebook who are now in their early to mid twenties. I'm not sure about meeting up with them (I'm not a teacher although I work in special education and my brother is a secondary teacher) but one of my close friends teaches at our local sixth form college and, because she has grown up in our local town, quite often bumps into her students in town but she has never had drinks with them. I was invited back to my school by the headmaster a few years ago to let everyone know how I was doing and what I was up to but obviously that's different as it is in the school building. I probably haven't been of any help whatsoever but hopefully somebody else more knowledgeable than me will be able to help a bit more.
     
  4. Hi,
    Following recent Child Protection training, guidelines state you have to wait at least 5 years after the student has left school before adding them to your Facebook friends list. If you feel the need to add them at all, it would make them 21/23 not 18!
    The GTC advise us to use our judgement probably because they think teacher's would have friends in and outside of school therefore, socialising with students wouldn't come into question.
    Your last paragraph indicates you know you're skating on thin ice with this one. If a student accuses you of wrong doing you wouldn't have a leg to stand on! Or if you are seen by a member of staff who reports you then your career is down the pan. Why put yourself in that position?
    Learn to watch from a far. I have taken comfort over the past 17 years in that the students I have taught haven't been on the news at 10.
    You have all been watching too much of Waterloo Road!
     
  5. At a recent staff meeting it was pretty plain to see who has loads of ex-pupils - and indeed sixth-formers - as Facebook friends etc.
    The new HT offered the advice that it was imprudent and that she would prefer it if staff did not use social network sites to chat to ex-pupils. There were a lot of raised eyebrows, huffing and self-justification, but the impression I got was that they could count on the HT to take a very dim view if allegations were later brought.

     
  6. I don't think it would be too much of a problem since they're all over 18 now, I have a few ex students as fb friends and also as an ex connexions adviser have a few older ex clients on there too although as I'm now ancient it has been a long time since I was asked to join a group on a night out! I think that so long as they're adult and you're not indulging in anything too wild, no criticism could be levelled.
     
  7. I must confess to not understanding the issue very well here. If they are former students of yours, and they are over 18, then there is no professional relationship and whatever happens is between consenting adults... is it not?
     
  8. Eva_Smith

    Eva_Smith Established commenter

    I agree that it should be considered unusual if a teacher strikes up a friendship with a student and decides to keep in touch with them once they have left school. As the children we teach turn into adults, it's perfectly normal I think that we genuinely grow to like and respect them as people. Once they have left school, they become members of the community, just like any other young adult. I have friends of all different ages: as old as 65 and as young as 17 (I am 29) and it's not at all strange that two people of different ages might develop mutual respect and common interests.
    That said, one must be careful I think. Students who have JUST left school can still have brothers or sisters in the school. You are right to ensure that your language, dress and conversation remain appropriate given the position of trust you are still in once the young adults have left school. In many ways, they want to keep in touch with you because of the consistency you represent and the security and care you have provided them with over the years. They don't need to see this person they've respected reduced to a drunken mess - humorous though they may find it!
    I do not think there SHOULD be a problem if a teacher and their ex-student should want to keep in touch. However, people have funny opinions about it. Like you, I get emotionally involved (too involved some would say)in my students' success and welfare, and therefore find it difficult to just wave them off in year 11 and never see them again - we've invested a lot in these people, after all.
    My advice would be to ensure you any contact you have with them is done via ways that can be saved, just in case (e.g. an email, or via Facebook - check security settings on photo albums etc). If you do go and meet up, take a friend with you and meet in a public place during the day.
    I do think it's a pity that keeping in touch with ex-pupils is so taboo.
     
  9. Eva_Smith

    Eva_Smith Established commenter

    Allegations of what?
     
  10. Seriously?
    Allegations that the conversations had become suggestive.
    Allegations that they were over-familiar.
    Allegations that the teacher had indulged in unprofessional third-party conversations (privacy settings notwithstanding).
    Allegations that the teacher had got plastered/*** up a wall/smoked weed/posed for ****.
    It matters not if eventually the truth or substance of such allegations is established and found to be false. Allegations are dealt with as they arise. Far better avoided. I appreciate that most teachers are mature enough to set appropriate boundaries but there are many who are not.
     
  11. dusty67

    dusty67 New commenter


    The issue is that whilst they may be over 18 now, you could be accused of haiving "groomed" them whilst they were under 18, in order to start a relationship as soon as they were 18!

    Our guidance in school is no adding facebook friends with any past pupil under the age of 21. Unless of course they are family memebrs etc.
     
  12. When I was a student (back in the day before social networking and computers come to think of it) I had an English teacher who was also my Yr 10 tutor (done differently in Oz, new tutor every year). I really got on well with this teacher and when I left school I stayed in touch. I ended up doing a work placement in his library (again, things are different in Oz, teacher-librarians are part of SMT and I was doing a library training course). Even after this we stayed in contact - in fact we spent every Christmas eve together. He married one of the Deputy HTs and it was just accepted by her that I spent that evening in his company - they divorced and I spent Christmas eve with him at his parent's place and the following year at his new place with his new partner and so on... it became our regular catch up. He was 15 years older than me. He was my friend regardless of how our relationship began. Then, when I was the same age as he was when we first met, he died from multiple brain tumours. I was so much richer for being his friend and I was one of the first people his partner called to inform them of his passing. In fact, I became a teacher because of him. I wanted to repay the profession that gave me the opportunity to cross paths with such an amazing person.
    I am friends with ex-students on facebook, however, they are all living in Oz and have all left high school (most still let me know what they are up to at university and work etc...) I took a lot of them on international trips so there are a lot of memories outside of the classroom (especially all the fundraising activities).
    However, I do not have any students that I have taught or am teaching in the UK as facebook friends. Nor, do I have any teachers at the school where I am teaching as friends. But, I do intend to explore and research the issue of social networking and schools (and teachers) as part of my MA as I think there are lost opportunities that could be used to our advantage ....
     
  13. Why would you, anyone, want to stay in touch with former pupils? I can't think of a single student I want to keep in contact with and that includes the adults I taught too. If I come across them I am happy to chat and even have a coffee with them but that's all. They are not friends and in the case of 18 year olds, never likely to be.
     
  14. smoothnewt

    smoothnewt Lead commenter

    In my subject we tend to have small sixth form groups, and I always tell them to keep in touch when they go off to university. They have my school email, and I have their email as a rule, for the purposes of receiving and passing on work to them. Usually once they leave that is that, but it can be useful to get in touch from time to time. For instance, one of my tutees was looking to apply to Exeter University, and I was able to put him in touch with an ex-pupil of mine who was studying there. In general it is nice to know that things are going well for them once they've left school.
     
  15. Eva_Smith

    Eva_Smith Established commenter

    I know exactly what you are saying, Lily. And I do agree that teachers have to be very careful. But from a Devil's Advocate point of view, why should any of the actions above (even if they were true) be a problem if the ex-student in question was over the age of 18 and had left school? Technically speaking, since the student is no longer at school and is over the age of 18, the teachers behaviour isn't legally wrong at all, even if some may consider it morally wrong.
    Don't get me wrong, I certainly wouldn't want ex-pupils seeing me even years later dresses inappropriately, drunk out of my brain and swearing my head off, but if they did (not that I do that sort of thing) then at the end of the day I am not their teacher anymore.
    I agree that allegations are far better avoided, but Facebook now records ALL chat conversations, not just inbox ones, so both parties would have a record of anything said/not said.
    I am personally on the side of caution, as you are Lily. But once the ex-pupil is 18 or over, the teacher no longer has a duty to them and can behave as they wish (or as they feel morally correct).
    This one I accept. You would hope that teachers would be bright enough to keep their porno photos off Facebook, or at least set up minimum privacy settings! [​IMG]
     
  16. Eva_Smith

    Eva_Smith Established commenter

    I've come across this opinion before. Some people deliver this opinion with a look of scorn and a roll of the eyes as if to suggest that I'm some immature, stupid silly girl who gets far too emotionally involved with the pupils.
    I don't wish at all to say that I'm some fantastic teacher extraordinaire, or that I'm better than anyone else. However, there are some pupils who are just great people and, regardless of their ages, are actually wonderful people to be around. My job would be incredibly boring if I was emtionally detached from all of the students I teach. If I didn't feel even a little sad to see them go at the end of the year, I wouldn't consider my job worth doing. One or two student, especially if I've taught them for a few years in a core subject (4 - 5 hours a week for five years some of them) it becomes a pleasure to both teach and to know them.
    It sounds all fluffy and 'Earth Motherish' to say, but I truly believe that age doesn't matter when it comes to friendship. I spend and awful lot of hours at work around these kids, young people, young adult...whatever. It would be fairly said if, out of the hundreds I see on a daily basis, there wasn't at least a handful who really are just nice people who it's a pleasure to be around.
    I have friends of all ages who I met in all sorts of different ways. I just don't discount the possibility that a pupil could become a friend in time.
     
    aquamarine999 and Madamejb like this.
  17. unfortunately, with constant new legislations overprotecting young people, allegations seem to blossom. Every adult, but especially those in regular contact with children, is immediately suspected of indecent intentions if such accusations are made - guilty until proven innocent. The street wise kids have quickly cottoned on to this and use it well to their advantage. Teachers are not trusted by the public, they have no status of respect in society.Constant criticism of inadequacy and inefficiency by consecutive governments have seen to that. I would never form any more than a professional relationship with any student or pupil of any age. That is not because I don't care or are not interested in their after-school-life, it is because British society has become sick - we need to prove who we are with id papers when we go for interviews now, show a utility bill to prove that we live at the address the invitation to the interview was sent to, prove that we have the qualifications for the job that we have done for the past 25 years and we are all sex maniacs lusting after children, we are just after compensation for every broken fingernail suffered in the stress of a hot steamy classroom session and above all we are totally incompetent.
    I came to Britain in the late seventies, escaping the buerocratic Austria where everyone was looking into every one else's business, absolutely loving the freedom of life here. 'Dame' MT started the destruction of trust in one another and it hasn't stopped yet but been scrupulously exploited henceforth by consecutive governments.The recent riots, greedy MPs with their overinflated claims are all examples of what counts now in every, dare I say, social class: I am all right jack and watch your back.
     
    aquamarine999 likes this.
  18. Eva_Smith

    Eva_Smith Established commenter

    And you wonder how the press manage to come up with lurid stories each day???
     
  19. I know a teacher who has been calling at the home of an ex-pupil - she left this year and is 19. They are working together on an activity both their churches have been involved in over the summer.
    I know there is nothing untoward in it, BUT his wife has recently left him (he is also friends with my cousin which is how I know this), and this is not known widely by pupils in his school yet.
    To be honest, I can just sense the kind of gossip which may evolve around this when it emerges as it will, and I feel concerned for him.I feel perhaps he is being a little naive :s

     
    aquamarine999 likes this.
  20. I am not rolling my eyes Eva - if you want to become friends with your students that's fine. I am interested in what my ex - students do, if I come across them.I have had hundreds of students over the years - there is no way I could ,or want to, keep track of them all. I don't want 18 /19/20 year olds as friends - I am far too old and to my mind it could only ever be a teacher/student relationship. I have enough friends of my own age.

     
    aquamarine999 likes this.

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