I have a moral dilmma regarding a student.

I am suffering from a moral dilemma.

I got a new class this week, Junior English. And I have this excellent kid. Fantastic, frankly. Teacher aren’t supposed to have favorites, of course, but I have a chronic weakness for super-smart long haired hippy boys who listen to me. Anyway, I was thinking about this kid the other day (no one ever tells you that one of the consequnces of teaching is that even when you aren’t meaning to do any work at all, your kids run thrugh your mind all the time–does this go away?), and as I had no dope, I was sorta idley surfing the web. I don’t know how others do this, but when I have no dope* I just put random shit into google as it occurs to me. So, rather naturally, I put in this kid’s name.

He has a web site for his art. And it’s great. I mean, it’s juvenille, but it is still impressive. He has commentary pn it, and it reveals a great deal about how he thinks–stuff like his own insights into how he reacts to critisim, which, from a teacher’s point of view, is like hitting a gold mine. I felt like a voyeur.

So here’s my dilemma: Just because someone puts comething up in cyberspace for the world to see, dosen’t mean they meant to show it to “real life”. So do I tell this kid I saw his site, loved his stuff, and really hope he’ll submit some stuff to out Literary Mag? Or should I keep my mouth shut? Do I take the risk of flattering him–which if it works could be a way to really connect with this kid, and in really connecting, do some real teaching–or do I play dumb, and privately swear to never google a student’s name again?

Lastly,Is it actually unethical not to tell him–would not telling him, even though it might alienate him, transform me from a concerned teacher to a true voyeur, peeking in on my student’s private lives in secret?

  • No SDMB, that is. On the reread I realized how bad that sounded for a respectable English teacher.

Before you decide whether or not to tell him what you saw, think about how you’ll explain finding it. I’d be pretty creeped out if I found out my teacher was researching me, unless I thought she was a major babe and I was attracted to her. But that’s just me.

I would do something different. Give the class some assignment in which this kid can basically turn in some of his stuff to complete it. Then encourage him. Maybe you’ll find some other budding geniuses as well.

Two alternatives:

Me, I’d just tell him I’d come across the site and tell him how impressed I was. It is out there to be seen and you would comment honestly on any English work you receive from him. It’s serendipity that you came across it.

Alternatively if you want to be sure that he is happy to have his site discovered, introduce the idea of the internet as modern communications into a classroom discussion. Ask if anyone has their own site that they are happy to share with the class. You’ll get your answer.

Now that I think about it, in this day and age, maybe the internet and things like chat room etiquette should be part of the curiculum.

Could you casually ask if he has any hobbies, and see if he offers drawing? He probably has a sketchbook he’d be willing to show if he wanted his talent discovered, and it doesnt seem as creepy as researching him on google
(I cant say much about creepy though, I do that all the time. The internet is a great place!)

I think it would definitely be a good idea to encourage him. There’s always that great little connection people don’t always make in high school with that one really cool professor that actually cares and encourages you.

Of course, I would DEFINITELY come up with another way of bringing up you found his site aside from googling his name. I don’t know, make something up about the school fooling around with email addresses and shit, and you typed the wrong thing in the wrong place or whatnot, I don’t know. But yeah, googling his name would come off as kinda creepy.

Also, be prepared for him to turn away and shy off from good criticism from a teacher. Although it’s great when a student can have such a great connection with a professor, not all students think it’s great when it’s them in high school. I like the idea or developing a project where everyone needs to do something online…perhaps even make their own homepage or some shit. It’s really not that hard, just cut and past into word perfect or something like that, then cut out what you don’t want and past, and there you go. Those students who have web pages will tell you “Hey, I already have a page, can I use that?” and you can get it from him that way and go from there, and the rest of your students can learn something new.

I think that is your answer - don’t mention it.

then ask yourself: “why did I google this kid’s name?”

I would be wary about telling people that you have googled their names. I told a girlfriend that I had googled her name (we had been dating for several weeks at that point), and it weirded her out somewhat. I managed to explain it away as just idle curiosity (which is true; I google lots of people), but… had I been a teacher…

It smacks of creepiness to me, and would set me on edge were a teacher of mine to admit to same.

Unless, of course, you’re really hot.

For the same reason I spent a night pondering a kid with, to put it nicely, too much energy, and then went and suggested him as a possible canidate to the Mock Trial sponsor.

For the same reason I held off calling home when a kid got in an arguement with me and walked out of my class, and instead talked to my fellow teachers and discovered that the week before school started, someone saw two older women, presumably his family, harranging and humiliating him in public for no discernable reason, and I spent the night pondering the situation and finally realized that the whole arguement was really about the fact that I had asked the class to provide a 35 cent folder and he got scared of the idea of going home and asking for 35 cents. So I went and got him a folder.

For the same reason I hunted up the conselors, the student support teacher, and an assistiant principal to find out what I am supposed to do when a kid casually mentions that they are home alone for weeks at a time.

For the same reason I am going in early this morning to talk to another teacher about a bright junior who is in my sophmore English because she failed it last semester, and I want to talk to last year’s teacher to find out what I need to do to keep her on track and interested.

For the same reason that I got up at 4:45 this morning and will be at school at 10:30 tonight to watch the homecoming game to the bitter end even though I hate football.

Because I care about my students, and they are all in my mind all the time. All this is out of the 40 or so students I have had contact with this semester. Frankly, I can’t wait for burnout to take some of this away so that I can sleep at night.

Manda, I’m somewhat reluctant to post this, since we never seem to agree (and I’m usually shown to be wrong in my assessments).

To my mind, if someone’s put a page up on the Net, then they do want everyone to see it, “real life” people included. It’s foolish to assume the people with whom you interact daily will never chance upon your page. So even if he hasn’t considered the possibility of you seeing the page, you’re perfectly justified in having seen it.

Also, it’s not as if the content of the site is questionable - it’s not like, for example, he’s hosting a porn site. He’s got some stuff on there that he’s probably very proud of.

When kids are in high school, as you certainly know, they have their periods of self-doubt. Putting his art on the Net is one way to allay those feelings. These kids need encouragement, IMO, and simply telling him you visited the site would provide that encouragement.

But then there’s the potentially sticky issue of how you came upon the site itself. I would say that you tell him you were bored and were just typing names of students into Google, and up came the site. It’s not like you tapped into some private world.

Manda: First, major kudos for being the kind of teacher who cares about your students. We need more like you.
I second the suggestions about bringing up art/the Internet in class. Actually, one of my teachers did research me, down to elementary school grades and IQ tests, so I have a kind of skewed perspective on this. Amazing teacher, that one.

In a million years I wouldn’t tell him that you saw his site outright. What’s the kid to think of how you see him if he thinks your searching his name in google (sounds a bit obsessive and weird). There are a million ways to get the info. Ask the kids’s about literary websites, and casually work in if anyone has their own. It can be done.

Well he did put up the site in his own name not some sort of net name.

You could simply ask if he is an artist and tell him you saw an art site by an artist with his name. Are you sure it’s him? I mean did he post a photo of himself?

Just tell the class that the mag is looking for artists to submit work. If he steps foward then he is comfortable with other knowing. Maybe he dosn’t want his classmates knowing about it.

Would you be uncomfortable if he had Goggled on your name and asked you about this post?

Treat others as you would yourself be treated.

Another alternative for how you came across it would be to say someone told you about the site. But it was told to you in confidence, so you can’t say who that someone is.

Just a thought.

As cover, you might google the other kids’ names, and then say, “I noticed several of you have websites.” So it doesn’t come across as tho you have a creepy obsession with this one kid. (No, it doesn’t come across that way, but in this day and age, especially as a teacher, you have to be very aware of appearances.)

I like Dinsdale’s idea. Google a bunch of your kids - maybe even the whole class - and make a note of who has websites and who doesn’t. This is called “Preassessment of Interest and Ability in Internet Communication”. You could turn it into a whole unit. Or even a research project.

I don’t think it’s creepy that you googled a student. It hadn’t occurred to me, but there are several students I might google, if only to get a peek at their psyche so that I can better connect with them in the classroom. Of course, it’s also occurred to me that my kids might do the same on me (if they’re really, really bored, I guess). So, I make sure that anything I put up on the web is not connected to be my my IRL name, and I’m trying to make a point of fudging personal data just a bit so I can’t be connected to my online persona.

I’m now a second year teacher, and Manda, the whole running-through-your-head thing won’t go away. At least not by the second year. I’m actually doing that more this year than last.

Why do most of you feel the need to make up some cover story? If you feel like you have to use this episode to try and connect you can either:

a - Tell him the truth; or
b - Lie about it.

I wish all of life’s questions were this easy.

Why do most of you feel the need to make up some cover story? If you feel like you have to use this episode to try and connect you can either:

a - Tell him the truth; or
b - Lie about it.

I wish all of life’s questions were this easy.

You have a third alternative. Do nothing with the knowledge you have.

I would say if the site is in his own name, and the art is good, tell him you saw the site.

(Maybe you could also google teh other kids in your class…maybe lots of them have websites and you could turn it into an assignment?)

my two cents.
btw Manda Jo, you sound like a great teacher, and I enjoy reading your posts…you are often the voice of reason :slight_smile:

I like the idea of turning this into a teaching unit. Ask if anyone has a website, then make it a project to have all students work on building a site. In the process, if the kid brings up his art site, you’ll have an in to talk about it with him.