Ten years ago, just around this same time of year, I joined Facebook.
At the time, Facebook was only open to students with an email address from a college. I had been accepted to grad school at Bowling Green State, so I had the required email address. I was nervous about joining Facebook because so many of my former students were on it, and ten years ago society still had pretty strict perceived boundaries between what was acceptable online interaction between teachers and alums. Facebook greyed that boundary.
But as soon as the seniors who graduated in 2006 got their college email addresses, they became Facebook Official, and knowing I had a college email address, they nagged me to join.
So I did.
Those students who nagged me to join Facebook were students I’d taught for four years in the speech program at the high school. It was the first time in my teaching career that I was losing students I’d come to think of as a school-year family, and the thought of walking into my classroom without them was devastatingly sad.
Uprooting my life and moving to Bowling Green was terrifying, and friends lauded my bravery for stepping into the unknown.
In hindsight, the braver act for me would’ve been to stay teaching instead of going to grad school–braver because after four years I was burned out on coaching speech and wasn’t sure I could continue, braver because those kids had been the glue in that program and I would’ve had to figure out how on earth I’d replace them. They all went to college as I was going to college, so the break felt easier–I scattered to the winds just as they did. I didn’t have to face trying to teach without them.
This ten-year Facebook anniversary hit me last week, when I saw students (on Facebook, of course) responding to an invite for the Class of 2006’s reunion, and I realized that ten years ago I left teaching and moved to Ohio. I didn’t blog about teaching back then, so I never blogged about how special that group of students were to me.
I’ve been lucky in my teaching career to have pockets of students I adored and missed terribly once they left, but I think the reason I’ve felt so fond of the class of 2006 is because as they stepped into their unknown worlds of college, so did I. And their hard work and optimism inspired me.
Many of those students have since graduated from college. Some are married, some have children. They are working in a variety of fields, and every time I see a Facebook status update where they share a victory, I am so, so happy and proud; when they share a defeat, I am so, so sad.
Ten years ago, we all went off to college. And as I clicked on the 2006 posts in my timeline, I read post after post from those people–checking in, sharing television I should watch and music I should listen to, wishing me luck on midterms and finals, requesting lunch dates when our breaks overlapped and we were all back in Omaha.
When I see one of those Facebook-driven videos that announce “Suzy and Jane, you’ve been friends for 7 years!” my initial reaction is to roll my eyes and wonder out loud when the robot uprising will happen.
But then I step back and realize how lucky I’ve been to have the Facebook friends I’ve had since the beginning.