It has taken me two years to learn a valuable lesson from a professor in graduate school. I requested to "friend" her on Facebook. I was surprised and a little upset to discover that she denied my request. I figured it was to distance her personal life from her profession life. I have questioned this myself and once tried to manage two separate accounts. I really did not want everyone to know my private life but merged the two accounts together to make life easier.
It all came to me Thursday while watching a multimedia project from a student. The policeman in the video said he had to turn the scanner off when not at work or that he would go crazy. For me the scanner is Facebook. I thought being friends with students would improve a student teacher relationship and that it would be a great way to stay in touch and keep them informed with opportunities such as jobs or events. I also thought that I could stay up to date with milestones in their lives such as marriages, children, or the dream job that had finally happened.
Other than just learning about their successes I also get to hear complaints indirectly or directly towards me or other photography instructors. Instead of meeting with me in my office, students rather vent to their friends who of course agree with them. I find it unprofessional and not accepting responsibility to their own actions, be it a bad grade or misunderstanding. True, photography is a very suggestive profession and it can be debated what is considered acceptable or not. But to be a professional and to move away from a hobbyist you have to accept criticism and learn how you can improve your craft. By not doing so, not only is the student receiving a discredit but the survival of the profession of photography is falling deeper in its grave. I am not sure which type of student is worse. Is it the one who brags about a good grade or complains about a low grade on their status?
I feel both need to learn a valuable lesson. To me, a grade is a private matter between a student and instructor. Immediate family and employers could be included but why does the world need to know? A real achievement is winning an award or getting paid for a profession you love doing. What is going to matter is a client or employer paying you a deserved salary you can live of. If some cannot accept constructive criticism how are they going to deal with an angry boss or client? Instead of a bad grade you are getting fired or will harm your future business because this client will tell all of their friends how you mishandled the situation.
I have decided in order to keep my sanity that other than the ones I have a professional relationship with that I am going to unfriend all current and past students on Facebook. I am sure with social media today this will not totally work in my favor. To prevent myself from receiving more ghosts of photography past and my profession as an instructor I have to distance myself outside of the classroom.
I am sorry to make this announcement but I hope it is understood. If anyone has a problem with any grade which I believe was deserved or other issue please make an appointment to see me or contact me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I truly care about each and every student that I have had. I have felt your happiness, encouraged you to try your best, and have shared your hardships. Maybe this will be a life lesson and will help you move on. Or it might all just continue and I won't have to hear the nagging behind my back.
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