“I’m not like a regular teacher. I’m a cool teacher”–Me.

Life is mostly a lifelong exercise in turning the things that work against you into positives (sorry to wax philosophical). In my case, I know one of the things could work against me is my apparent youth.

I am 29 years old, and I teach at a university. I am definitely not the youngest professor here, but I’m young enough to have been asked in my interview how I would handle students who saw my youth as a way to undermine me in the classroom or as an instructor.

I wish I had known then what I know now, because I would have told my potential employers that if you wield it right, youth is a powerful tool that can connect me to my students.

In some ways, I feel like I have to tread lightly. I must be ultra fair and ultra consistent. When saying no, I fall back on my college’s policy a lot.

In others, my youth makes me extremely approachable, and I play this up in the classroom. As a result, students tell me about the latest trends; those trends then make their way into classroom materials, where students are usually amused/pleasantly surprised to have a teacher who is kind of sort of “in the know.”

This brings us to social media, that new hot ish that everyone is talking about. In my university, I am on the social media committee, so our team runs the university facebook and twitter pages, as well as the university snap chat.

After months of harassment, I have also given in and given my students my personal snapchat, and in exchange they have given me theirs.

It’s a given that social media is a great tool to boost communication, and a simple google search of social media in the classroom will give you pages and pages of results with both lesson plans and scholarly research.

The article Study of Social Networking Usage in Higher Education Environment states that social media was found to be useful in quickly disseminating information. It also found that participants were likely to use social media for entertainment, task assignment, exams and class rescheduling (Falahah and Dewi Rosmala, 2012).

I’ve added my students to my Snapchat account, and they’ve also had me create a Chubble.

Since then, the environment in both of my classes has noticeably improved. It is more warm in the classes–more personal. There are more jokes. In some ways, this has resulted in a more rowdy classroom. But in others, I’ve actually noticed an uptake in marks (correlation does not necessarily mean causation, but I think it’s worth noting).

In a language classroom, as a foreign language teacher, I am a novelty. And to be fair, they’re also kind of a novelty to me too. Our connections are forged through curiosity–a desire to see and show. My students want to see how I live, and they want to show me how they live. This is particularly powerful with some of the shier students–the ones who are quiet in class, or who seem disinterested. The tiny communications that we have outside of class show me more of their interests and allow us to have moments of connection. Although I never put anything they tell me into class material directly, knowing their interests, their senses of humor and the places they frequent all help me to create class materials that are just a bit more personal and that much more engaging. The students don’t want a whole lot of attention–they just like knowing that their teacher is available. That I care.

As a sidebar, since I have been using Snapchat, both the students and I have found that it is a much more easy and direct way to stay in contact. So far, my students have not abused this–they only use it to ask things that are (in their mind) urgent.

And I use it for things that are (in my mind) urgent as well. The other day, I made a mistake in their notes. Once I discovered the mistake, I wrote it on the board, snapped it with a little joke and sent the snap to every student on my list (all of them minus one or two). I was happy and excited to see them opening and screenshotting the note I sent.  If I had sent it via blackboard or Engrade, it would have fallen into the “teacher I didn’t get” abyss. With snapchat, the problem was noted and solved immediately.

In conclusion, I wrote this reflection to say that I have enjoyed using social medial with my students purely to be social. Students feel more invested in me and I feel more invested in them. This has had only positive results; (I am not an idiot) I am careful with what I post and we all enjoy the extra communication and connection.