Here’s how to handle unexpected encounters with your students outside of the classroom with finesse.Aug 30, 2022
An unexpected encounter with a student after school or on the weekend can catch you off guard, sometimes resulting in a situation that feels incredibly awkward. Here we offer suggestions for handling some common impromptu interactions with students that will help them feel a little less daunting.
Unplanned Encounters in Person
Bumping into a student after school or on the weekend can catch you by surprise. In the classroom, your role as the teacher is clear. On the weekend, when you’re wearing casual clothes and pushing a shopping cart, it can be hard to know what to say and do. Should you say hello? Should you give your student a hug? What about a handshake?
The good news is that there’s no harm in greeting a student outside of the classroom. Extending a “hello” with the same kind of assertiveness you demonstrate in class is often appreciated and further reinforces your role as a leader in your classroom and community. But, as a leader, it’s also your job to model appropriate boundaries. Make sure you know your school’s policy for hugging and other forms of physical affection, and model those boundaries in both the classroom and beyond.
Invitations to Off-Campus Celebrations
Whether it’s a birthday party, baptism, or barbecue, many students love to invite teachers to events in their lives. For a teacher, it’s an honor to receive such an invitation. At the same time, it can be a daunting decision to face.
Many schools discourage meeting with students away from campus unless the event is a school-sponsored function, which means you may be inclined to decline. If this is the case for you, prevent prolonged disappointment by letting your student know as soon as possible that you won’t be able to attend the event. Be direct so there’s no confusion, but also remember to express gratitude. Remembering to follow up after the event about how it went reminds your student that you care, even though you didn’t attend.
Social Media Connections
Your student sent you a friend request on Facebook — now what? Social media can be a tricky realm to navigate as a teacher.
For your students, social media might be a natural way to communicate. As a teacher who understands the importance of digital literacy, you might even have a social media page for your classroom. But where do you draw the line?
Casual chatter across informal social networks can blur the boundaries between personal and professional relationships. Plus, personal social media accounts are often laden with personal information that you may not want to share with your students. If you want students to be able to connect with you on social media platforms, try creating a social media page for your classroom or a professional page where your role as the teacher remains clear. Then, when you receive a request to connect on your personal platforms, you can direct students to your classroom account.
New to Teaching?
Join our Sharpen Your Skills: Kagan Cooperative Learning Level 1 event for the support you need to master your first-year teaching experience.