Successful Social Media Disengagement for Teachers

March 14th, 2013 | Guest Contributor | 13 Comments

Advisers TeachingGuest post by Starr Sackstein

After years of allowing my work to intermingle with home, I had had enough.

No more nights spent chatting into the wee hours with students about the details of their work, it was time to take my life back.  Setting clear boundaries was essential for my students and me…

… letting the resentment of the lack of free time disappear.

Image courtesy Starr Sackstein, used with permission

Here are seven tips on successful social media disengagement to help you stay happy both at work and home:

1. On the first day of school, inform parents and students how you prefer to be reached and when.

Just as a professor has office hours in college, so too, should a secondary teacher have specific times of availability.

2. Set up a separate work email that students can reach you at.

3. If using Facebook, know your school or district’s policy on social media engagement.

Usually they don’t want you having current students as “friends.” So set up a fan page or a group where you can control the environment (set strict restrictions on posting and monitor until it becomes evident how the page will be used.) For example, here is the NYC DOE social media policy.

4. Be aware, when posting on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn, that what you are presenting is public.

Don’t write anything that will get you in trouble, or will encourage student engagement in a less than appropriate manner.

5. Despite any inner adolescent need to get involved in Facebook threads on inflammatory status updates, fight the urge; it almost never turns out well.

6. Serve as a role model for your students in how to use these powerful tools appropriately. No pics of you and your friends at the bar, poolside, or engaged in any activity you wouldn’t want them to see in person.

Teach students by showing them how to present themselves responsibly.

7. Adhere to the boundaries you create, reminding students that it isn’t personal, but that you are allowed to have a life of your own too. Sometimes adolescents forget that the world doesn’t revolve around them.

I hope my cautionary tale helps you in preventing some catastrophes.

What do you think: short of choosing to live like the Amish, how can we make use of these wonderful tools and still maintain a respectful balance between work and home?

Starr SacksteinHigh school educator, reformer, and a recovering perfectionist, Starr Sackstein leads by example both in the classroom and on the Internet. An impassioned writer, photographer, and mother to a sassy seven-year-old, Starr is convinced that her cats were human in another life. A Grateful Dead enthusiast, she is a fierce defender of first amendment rights.

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Excellent continuation of the conversation, Starr. Your suggestions for setting and enforcing rules are just what we need to help wrap our heads around the rapidly-evolving/changing communication channels that exist between teachers and students. Thanks again for some great insights!

Shonali Burke
Shonali Burke

"Answering emails in the shower" - HAHAHAH!!! Who does that, right, Gini? ;)


I teach in HE and my point is that students have to learn to become independent learners - which means not depending entirely on the teacher/lecturer to teach them everything and to help them endlessly with assignments and other challenges.

The problem for educators is that we're under pressure to make it fail safe. But how does this help prepare our students for real life? It's a messy, imperfect world - but full of opportunities and challenges for those with a flexible approach.


All good advice, but the most telling point for me is that you're a 'recovering perfectionist'. I'm an imperfectionist and don't mind students learning this lesson from me. 


@KirkHazlett thanks Kirk. It had taken time to really strike a balance. The kids, parents and teachers need to respect the lives of those they work with. Admittedly, if an " emergency" happens, I'm likely to answer an email or text a student but over all, I have stopped. I love the technology and I want to help kids and their parents use it effectively, just don't want to give up the time I have with my own child to do it


@behindthespin I couldn't agree more again! I teach HS and I'm constantly struggling with my own ideas of giving students autonomy and the school directives to put fail safes in place. With my seniors, at this point during the year, they are on their own, but it has been a scaffolding process. I have been trying to make a case for my colleagues with younger students to do the same. 

Kids today are used to being "coddled" - they feel entitled and expect teachers to answer questions, extend deadlines, do the work for them. It's a sad reality that needs to be changed. So teaching them to become independent learners is a gift they won't recognize as such until later in life. 

I don't like to see my students fail, so at times I feel compelled to help them "understand" - I refuse to do work, extend deadlines or tell them explicitly how to do something... scaffolding is a challenge. 

 Thanks for taking the time to write your thoughtful ideas. I think you are dead on.


@behindthespin I admire you as imperfectionist. I had been a life lesson to be easier on myself & relax. I admire people who can naturally accept it. It is a great lesson to teach them and for them to learn.


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