Monday, April 01, 2013

To text or not to text…that is the question

Is it ever ethical for a teacher to text his or her students about academic issues? Or, Is it ever permissible for a teacher and student to text each other about issues that do not involve academics? Those two questions passed into my consciousness as I was facilitating a high school online class this morning. Even though many people have internet access at home and perhaps even via their ‘Droid or Smartphone, which allows them to text someone, the question still remains should teachers and students text each other? In the past when I taught in a classroom I had occasions to send email to my students or students emailed me if they had questions about a research paper, upcoming quiz/test, and so on. In return I would send them a reply by email. I felt that using email to communicate with my students was morally and ethically appropriate for the following reasons: 1. There was a record of the communication. 2. Any email communication between student and teacher should be open to public scrutiny. 3. Email between my students and I never appeared to be unhealthy. My number one priority when communicating with my students by email was to always keep the communication short, ethical and academically-centered. 4. I would often cc mom or dad the email message between their student and me. However, with the ubiquity of cell phones and the ability to communicate through texting new considerations arose regarding teacher/student communication. Texting seems more personal than sending an email. Students send texts to their friends or relatives who may live far away, and to Mom and Dad. Therefore, if the student feels comfortable sending texts to people mentioned above, then why not text a teacher? Therein lies part of the problem. A teacher is and should be a role model for the students under her care. The teacher is an authority figure, entrusted with the responsibility to protect their students. Teachers should never display behavior that would cause either physical or emotional distress for their students. I can hear folks out “there” saying, “But what about…” and “How about situation Z?” Or “I heard about this one time that a friend of a friend of a friend texted a teacher because...” Fill in the blank. I’ve made up my mind about the issue of teachers and students texting one another. Now I’d like to hear from you.