As an instructor, I find that it is extremely important to be approachable and friendly with my students.
Students are ever-curious, and I find that sharing some details of my life allows my students to feel more at ease in the classroom and more willing to ask questions. In that vein, I share minor things with my students: like how I was training for and running a half-marathon, or that I like spicy food, or that I grade while watching horror movies.
One side effect of this personable attitude is that I have students who try to friend me on Facebook. It is gratifying in many ways that they feel like I could be a friend, or something other than just their instructor. And I turn them down – politely but firmly. Always.
It is important to have boundaries with students. While being friendly and supportive is good, it is necessary to have boundaries between your personal and professional life. Not only does this protect an instructor professionally by avoiding conflicts of interest, it also protects you emotionally. Students who feel entitled to blur one boundary will likely feel the same about others as well.
I can just imagine, going out to see a movie with a group of friends and having one of them ask, “hey, I wanted to know about that last test….” (*shudder*) Or worse, they may try to give me relationship advice.
So teachers: set some boundaries and keep them. Students: it is nothing personal, but I’m not friending you on Facebook. I wouldn’t want to scare you.