I have the blessing/misfortune to live near where I teach. It means I don’t have to leave as early as my counterparts who reside farther away. I am a private individual when at home, and I don’t do things to attract attention to my home other than try to keep my flowers and lawn growing and the weeds dying. I am never quite sure how to respond to kids riding by (and in the case of this weekend standing astride their bicycles openly staring at/watching me as I carried a lawn bag around to the trash!) because I value my privacy. I have had to explain this to more students recently than ever before. When I am at school, I will help out or answer questions. When I am at home sweeping my front walk, looking at the yard, or getting the mail, I am a private citizen and pretty much off-limits. I know this may sound uncaring, but as a natural introvert, I need that time alone to think and be the wonderful, fabulous Mrs. Johnson that they know and love. If I don’t get my down time, then I am not as upbeat. It should go without saying that if a child is in danger, I will gladly help them and be a safe place/person. No one bothers my kids! I’ve had former students who knew exactly where I lived, and it was not a problem. I just want that trend to continue. Last year, we were ding-dong ditched repeatedly by some students who thought they were funny. They weren’t, and I reported their names to the school resource officer. Two years prior to that found me being followed by a former student riding along in a car as I was walking for exercise during the first week of summer vacation. I was shaken as I hurried home taking alternative routes and going guerrila stealth mode.
I value my students’ privacy, too. I have a good idea where some of them live, but I don’t stop by and visit. I’ve dropped off homework or personal items left behind after calling their parents to notify them of my impending visit. My team mates and I write positive postcards and sign birthday postcards then address them before posting them. At the end of the school year, I look up their addresses to write thank-you notes when they’ve managed to slip out of the building before I can give them their note personally. I am only Facebook friends with students who have graduated from high school. There are several requests sitting in my inbox, but I won’t be clicking “Confirm” until that happens. This is my way of protecting both parties because there is no hint of impropriety from me, and I control the information I put in a social media forum. My posts are pretty much G-rated all of the time because I am predictable about what I write – exercise, meal plans, etc. I do have a students-only email address that they can use to keep in touch with me after leaving my class. I ask about hobbies, books read, classes in their new grades, family, etc. It’s a continuation of our conversations in the classroom and no more. I encourage them when I see that it’s needed and write recommendation letters when asked. I guess the best way to sum it up is that I like being in control of my own press and reputation. I like controlling what comes across or is read; however, I know that isn’t always possible. I keep on going anyway.