I love Facebook. I know that not everyone does, but I do. I love that I have been able to build new ties and bonds with people I've met strictly through the Internet (initially by blogging). I also love that I have a richer connection with the people that I work with and the students that I teach, learning more about their families, their interests, their hopes and fears. But I especially love that I am able to reconnect with people from my past, all the way back to grade school.
Today, I received a friend request from a former student, from my years in Johnstown, Pennsylvania - my first full-time teaching position. We had not lost all touch, corresponding at irregularly for the past 24 years. But now I will finally get to see photos of her husband, her children, her cats, and share more frequently everyday thoughts. Eve mentioned telling her son - now almost college age himself - about me as a pivotal person at a pivotal time in her life. People often speak of teachers and advisers as pivotal, or influential. But as I think about Eve, I realized that she was a pivotal influence in my life at a pivotal time for me.
I was trying to figure out what kind of professor I was, what kind of teacher, what kind of advisor. Eve let me into her life in a way that influenced my ideas about myself as a person and as a professor. She made me feel like I was doing something valuable, because she let me know that I was helping her in her life and career path.
Eve is not the only student to have touched me and influenced me, but there has always been something special about her. Maybe it's because we shared a love of cats (she used to come to my house to visit with my Maine Coon cat Melvin), or because of how courageously she dealt with the internship from hell, or just because she's a wonderful, smart, caring, fun person. I'm so glad that Facebook is allowing us to reconnect on a more regular basis.