By Dr. Will Henson
In writing our Personal and Professional boundaries video for the ParaSharp© series, we outlined several important boundaries educators needed to be aware of. One that needs some important discussion as the school year gets started is maintaining healthy boundaries around self-disclosure. Self-disclosure is talking and sharing information about yourself.
Here are some things to remember to keep self-disclosure healthy and helpful to your students:
The Headline Rule: Before you disclose something, think about how it might sound as the headline on tomorrow’s newspaper. Imagine that you tell students that since you are an adult you drink beer and think this is okay. The headline might read “Mrs. Smith Defends her Drinking Habit.”
The Political Campaign Rule: Before you disclose something, imagine you a running for public office and think about how your opponent might spin the information. For instance, imagine you share with a student you failed several classes in high school. Your political opponent would point out how a “failure” like yourself is “not qualified” to teach school.
The Helpful Rule: Ultimately, self-disclosure is not for you. It is to help the student. At the very least, self-disclosure should do no harm. No matter the disclosure, your intentions and outcome should be helpful for the student.
With these rules I mind, I use self-disclosure very sparingly in my work with students. When I do use it, I certainly think before I do. I hope this helps you as you meet new students this fall!