Disclosure in the Classroom

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.

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  1 comment for “Disclosure in the Classroom

  1. Sandy
    January 6, 2010 at 10:22 pm

    “access to my perverse, radical, and often publicly unacceptable thoughts and attitudes.” As a former student (LOL), it was that disclosure that allowed you to be real. Knowing that you were *real* and had much the same or at least similar experiences that we did, became more of a positive challenge. You were the professor/friend. The professor that expected much, and we were the students who wanted to live up to that expectation. I understand that having boundaries with students is healthy, at the same time… where is the line between a healthy boundary and a cut-off from the world professor? There have been 3 professors in my life that I would have killed myself for, study wise… and they were the profs with whom I was the closest. It was because I was allowed into the “inner sanctuary of brilliance” that really caused me to want to succeed even more in their classroom. Professors are models of what their students can be. Once the student is allowed to see the reality of the prof, the reality of the student can come to fruition… 🙂 Between you, my Hebrew prof, and Dr. emilie townes…. I had a lot of work and expectations to which i wanted meet. Check out emilie…you two have similar teaching styles.

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