The Value of Facebook, and Teaching is Forever
Facebook is often criticized, at times justifiably. My experience, however, has been extremely positive.
This year has been “challenging,” to understate. In a period of a couple of months both of my children disowned me, for reasons that are not at all clear, and my wife filed for divorce, between my birthday and our 46th wedding anniversary. None of this made or makes any sense to me.
In the blink of an eye my entire life was shattered. I went from an extended family of two children, their spouses, two grandchildren, one older brother, and (on my wife’s side), about 20 adults and children – to being able to communicate with one older brother. All of the rest of these people simply erased me from their lives. As the divorce crawls slowly toward a resolution and the sale of the home we have lived in for 41 years, probably in the spring, I am sort of camping out in a spare bedroom downstairs.
All of this was shattering, and I could have easily fallen into a very deep depression, or much worse. I did not, and it is because of close friends, Facebook friends, and former students.
The first few friends I opened up to all had the same reaction to what my family had done and what was being said about me: “This is nonsense.” A couple of them had “been there and done that” and provided me with excellent advice I have followed. I received a ton of support from Facebook friends, including former students, colleagues, and friends from my youth going back more than 50 years. I needed all of it.
Of course, our lives are not complete without irony. For years I was overly smug about my reliance on a flip phone and a contrarian refusal to get a smart phone. My rationale, beyond my capricious ego, was that everyone else had one and I was usually not alone. This changed in 2016 on a solo motorcycle trip to California where I found myself in a situation where I really needed a smart phone with internet access and did not have one. Now I use that new phone all the time to keep in touch with people I rely on.
What is the secret of comedy? Timing.
You remember the line “teaching is forever?” Thanks to Facebook, it is more true than ever. Over the past few years I have received moving statements from former students thanking me for something I did, almost always not related at all to what I was teaching. In one case I had written a long letter to a girl whose life was falling apart. Her life trajectory continued downward until she was about to commit suicide. She pulled out my letter, read it again, and changed her mind. Four times. Years later she was in a much better place and wrote to thank me for what I had done. I was in tears by the time I finished her letter. I have received at least a half a dozen of these.
On the first day of each class I would tell my students that in return for their efforts I would be there for them for the rest of their lives. It never occurred to me that the reverse could be true. Now I am wiser and so grateful.
Not that all students adored me or even liked me. Some of them despised me, and in some cases I would agree that they should. Teaching involves making several decisions an hour. Unlike other jobs, the decisions involve the best technique to work with in dealing with a child, and children can be difficult to assess from moment to moment. At times I made the wrong choice, but I don’t get to hear from those students.
Today I received another warm message from a student of over 20 years ago, detailing how I helped in what today would be called a “Me Too” incident. Like many of these stories, I do not remember the incident, but hearing that I did the right thing really bolsters my confidence and self-concept.
I don’t mean for this to be about me, or a pity party palaver. (I like that). My intent is to show the positive power of Facebook, and the rewards of teaching.
Cherish your friends on Facebook. There may come a time when you really need them. If you are a teacher, know that you make a difference. When your students are older and reflect back on their school years, they will remember the positive impact you had on their lives, and thanks to Facebook, may reach out to tell you about it. If you have a favorite teacher in your past, take the time to find them and thank them. I did this by phone in 2000 when I realized I had been copying virtually all of the teaching techniques of my favorite English teacher in high school. For 31 years. We had a wonderful conversation. So please do this. It will mean a lot – to both of you.
Now go out there and do good things!
Copyright 2018 David Preston