I find myself in an odd position.
Despite the prevailing wisdom that teens don’t tweet–a notion that gets thrown around on this blog, not to mention other online news sources and research groups like Pew–I seem to have found that rare enclave of teens who do tweet. By my count, right now I have 18 followers who are also students at the high school where I work.
My first reaction, of course, was sheer panic.
And then they brought me cupcakes.
At this point, I should probably back up a little. I initially only had two or three student followers, and I actually didn’t immediately realize they even were my students–the first of them weren’t teens I knew particularly well, and at least one of them had locked updates. (Whenever I get new followers, I check out their profiles to make sure they’re not gross spambots, but I don’t automatically follow back.)
It wasn’t until I posted about one of my students seeing me at roller derby that I took a closer look at my new followers–including some Twitter users who weren’t technically following me but were clearly reading my tweets–and realized students at my school were, in fact, tweeting.
I was a little worried at first. I try to be discreet, but I also tweet a lot about my job. I’ve been using the hashtag #1styrlibs to document (at least in 140-character chunks) my first year as a full-time high school librarian, which includes some complaints and frustrations here and there–never naming names, but a student (or teacher) here could probably decode a lot of my references.’ And I wouldn’t let a current student, say, add me as a friend on Facebook.
After freaking out for a few hours (and asking other librarians on Twitter how they handle follow requests from students), I decided to let the followers stay. My stream is public, after all, which is quite different from my personal Facebook page, which I keep pretty locked down and use for exclusively personal, social reasons; with Twitter, on the other hand, I tend to blend personal and professional, and actually tweet quite a bit for feedback related to my job.
Once I decided to let the students follow me, things got interesting.
I was turning off the computers closest to our school radio station when the students running the show that afternoon decided to play Lady Gaga’s “Telephone.” Without thinking much about it, I tweeted, “I wish the radio station would play Lady Gaga Every day when I’m turning off the computers.” Fast forward a week or so, and as I head over to turn off the computers, I hear “Telephone” again. Suddenly wondering if my student followers really are reading my tweets, I went with a bold move:
Fast forward to this Tuesday, and I have cupcakes on my desk.
So what’s the moral of the story, other than that high school seniors are awesome, and cupcakes are delicious?
Well, for one thing, my students do tweet–but they’re using Twitter in a very different way from the way most adults I know use it. Their twittersphere is relatively small, and made up almost exclusively of other teens they know in real life. They’re all using Twitter from their phones (partly because they communicate via text anyway, and partly because the main site is blocked by our district filters). The combination of the two means they’re effectively using Twitter to send group text messages.
Twitter has also opened up a whole new world of communication between me and my students. Since the cupcake delivery, we’ve been talking–both in real life and on Twitter–about music, bacon, final exams, and more. If they keep talking to me via Twitter once they graduate, I’ll probably follow a few of my students, and hopefully I can keep chatting with these wonderful people after they leave for college.
Oh, and while I was writing this post, my student follower count went up to 19. (The cupcake count is down to 12.)