One time, it was just handy to be able to text a mysteriously absent student that I didn't have her mysteriously missing assignment that was due the day before, and she was able to text back from her mysterious absence that it was mysteriously just turned in the wrong way (WHY do they put things on the Edmodo wall instead of using Turn-In??).
Another time, I almost missed the final performance of the play based loosely on our Spanish 3 class's experience writing a (first-prize winning!) skit for a language festival. The playwright himself had my number, as did the two actors playing themselves (all being on my debate team and having sent me many tournament-related texts previously). Had one of the actors not had my number, I would not have been able to get my napping children together in time to witness my first on-stage portrayal!
Another student contacted me three times in one day. We'll call her Jenny. This is not normal for Jenny, mind you. But this has not been a normal year for her either. Once a shining star academically, Jenny has succumbed to a host of pressures this year, not the least of which being a parent with serious health issues. Yet when she was late to project lab (kinda like study hall), Jenny was able to text me to let me know she'd be there a little late. Not necessary, but she knew she could connect with me, and I knew that she was still committed to picking up the pieces of her coursework this year.
Then Jenny stayed with me after school--for over 3 hours to make up time missed, mostly for the parental health issues. If she had not had my phone number for those 3 hours, Jenny would have been locked out after she went into another hall to record her missing Voicethread--OR locked IN when she did not realize the gates were locked and went out the wrong door when her time was up.
Now, Jenny has gone on record saying I get her goat, in no uncertain terms. But I know that her burdens are more than a high schooler should have to bear. And I know that the amount of support she has to cope with those burdens is not equal to the burdens' weight. I also know I am not who she wants to call when she needs help. But I know that she knows she can.
I don't give out my home phone number on my syllabus like I did in my younger days, although the homework questions on my answering machine that ended with "me gustan mujeres blancas!" were rare enough even then. In truth, I would give my cell phone number to pretty much any kid who asked. Goodness knows I make pretty much all of my parent phone calls from my phone, since my classroom phone doesn't dial out, and I've only kind of regretted the access that gave parents once or twice--nothing serious.
Now, however, I'm contemplating moving to a school with so many more than the 150-ish students at my current school, and the implications of sharing my personal phone number are much more daunting. And actually, pretty much all of those 10 students are either on my debate team or in my school "family." So not only do I know these kids better than most of the other 90% of the school, but it is kind of part of the deal to meet with these kids outside of school, so being able to contact each other is almost necessary.
Should every teacher give out their phone number? No, it is definitely a personal choice. Can it be dangerous to give out your phone number? Yes, certainly, when boundaries are too blurry on one end of the conversation or the other. Would I do the same thing in a larger school?
I might. Then again, between Edmodo alerts and Google Voice, I might not have to.
But if I have another Jenny, even at a big school, I think I would still feel better knowing she knows she could call if she needed to.