New technologies erode the boundary between the personal and the public, as Joshua Meyrowitz observed about television in No Sense of Place twenty five years ago. Since displaying ourselves is de rigeur, thanks especially to Facebook and Twitter, I feel less guilty about doing it on my blog, even though personal disclosure was never my original intent.
In class, students appear to enjoy my disclosure. Still, there’s an art to disclosing appropriately in the classroom, one that has taken me years to balance comfortably. As one friend put it, it’s easy “to hold your students hostage” to your personal narratives in class, which is an abuse of your power as a teacher.
It’s ironic that I started disclosing less in class just as the world around expected more. Research seems to agree, too. Consider this article on article on faculty and Facebook (by Mazer, Murphy, and Simonds in Learning, Media, and Technology 2009). It states that Facebook friending with students makes faculty more immediate (i.e., you’re more approachable and accessible). Yet, students also expect some distance, even on Facebook, and Facebook over-disclosure gets creepy. Although I am Facebook friends with a number of current students, I suddenly realized that they too have access to my perverse, radical, and often publicly unacceptable thoughts and attitudes. The reverse is true as I to get to learn way too much about them.
In reflecting on this, I figured out that what my students at previous university jobs know about me isn’t a big deal. For former grad students, well, it goes without saying that I didn’t care what they know. But for my current community college students, I’m uncomfortable. My teaching persona has changed rather dramatically, it seems.
Ok, so I actually do disclose to students regularly in the interpersonal classes, but only in “appropriate” ways, i.e., the story is relevant to the immediate topic in class. I don’t disclose much of anything in the public speaking class, which causes students to perceive me as being stoic (at least according to one student’s comments on the teacher evaluations). Quite ironic.
I intend to loosen up a bit, not necessarily as a goal or a resolution, but just something to consider about how the year might unfold. For the first post of the new year, I am obviously full of hope.