Sunday, June 7, 2015

Call me Susan.

I am an  atypical teacher.  I've known that for a long time, and attribute most of that diversity to the longevity and the unique population of students with whom I work.  Sure, there are teachers that LOOP with their students, but unless you're teaching in a one room schoolhouse or homeschooling, it's unlikely that teachers and students engage in that relationship for more than 3 or 4 years, cumulatively.

Our district has a strict teacher/student policy when it comes to greetings.  While high school students seem to gravitate towards referring to teachers by their last names, alone, the administrators drill into the faculty that this is unacceptable, requiring us to stop students engaged in this practice, emphasizing "Mr" "Mrs", "Miss", etc, before the aforementioned surname.  Kids roll their eyes with that "whatever" look, but it is certainly emphasizing the importance of respect for one's elders.

I am on facebook, and I have students as friends.  I don't initiate Facebook relationships with students, but I will allow "friends" if I actually know the kid asking for the connection.  Many of my students are on Facebook or follow me on Twitter, Instagram or Pintrest, and I am listed as Susan Heydt on all of those platforms.   Does that create a problem at school in terms of the name that I answer to?  Not at all.  (Unless you count the handful of kids from the Arrow Leadership Conference who let a "Susan" slip every now and then -- or add a "Q" if they happen to be named Omar or Josh...)

When I graduated from high school, my aunt, a mere 16 years older than I, asked me to drop the AUNT from her name, claiming she was too young to be an aunt to someone in college.   For the last 36 years, she's been Nancy, and introduced to my friends as my "dear relative."  When my high school kids graduate, I start encouraging the same sort of behavior.

After all, they're adults now, and many of them will go on to be resources for future students.  I do intentionally maintain relationships with former students, host the annual "Gifted Breakfast" once a year at Thanksgiving time, and try to keep track of who is where, majoring in what, using those contacts to both fuel my personal interest in the success of my students as well as tap into them as resources.  (Interested in engineering?  Let me connect you with Kevin, who graduated from Virginia Tech.  Marine biology?  I know one.  Professional musician?  Let's set up a phone call.)  Yes, social networking is as much about social as it is about professional for me.

So, now, less than 48 hours after graduation, I'm subtly, and not-so-subtly, reminding my graduates to simply "Call me Susan", because I value their brains, their personalities, and their friendship.