By Ken Bradbury
Facebook gets slammed around a bit as I hear my friends say things like, “Oh, I never even look at my Facebook. It’s just full of junk,” and “Some of these people who spend so much time on Facebook need to get a life,” then these very same folks whip out their phone when no one is looking, desperate to see what they’ve missed on their Facebook feed while we were talking.
I’m not one of those cell phone addicts, but it’s pleasant at the end of the day to log in and see what’s happened in my circle of acquaintances. Once I wade through the new babies, puppies in the snow, innumerable cat videos, and embarrassing pictures of surgical scars, a bit or two of useful information often rears its entertaining head. Perhaps those in other occupations feel the same way, but I’ve found Facebook to be a real boon to teachers. Unlike a corporation where you may work beside the same person for years, in education you get to know students for a very short period of time then they’re gone … or at least they used to be before the wonderful world of Facebook found them. Yes, there are some disheartening moments when you find that your former students have died or become grandparents. One makes you feel sad and the other causes you to suddenly feel very, very old.
I’ve always secretly hoped that I could supplement my teacher’s retirement income with a bit of blackmail. For example, one of my former students is now a sitting circuit judge, but I remember the time when I caught him trying to peek into the girls’ dressing room before a play one night. Another of my students recently ran for the office of judge in another county and I have enough dirt on his lawyer to buy a fairly nice condo in Orlando Beach.
Another remarkable young man graduated second in his class at West Point, became personal assistant to Henry Kissinger and is now a hugely successful lawyer out West. He knows that I still have a video that he made for my speech class where he was sitting on a toilet trying to sell a new brand of laxative. In fact, he was “Brand X” and the above-mentioned judge sat in the next stall, a serene smile on his face, the recipient of Ultra-Lax. I think that with perhaps a bit of doubling up on the blackmail I could manage to get a new car for the Florida condo.
Once upon a wicked time two of my female senior actresses snuck into my classroom during play rehearsal, took a wad of baling wire, and wired my chair to my desk. It took two janitors and a set of wire cutters to extricate my chair the next morning. Because of the snoop-power of Facebook I know that one of the young ladies is a newspaper editor in Charleston and the other is the superintendent of a very large school district in Illinois. I figure it would only take a phone call or two to furnish my condo. Back in “BF” (Before Facebook), I’d have lost track of these young hoodlums, but thanks to Mark Zuckerberg and friends my retirement is beginning to look rosy. I might actually be able to afford a condo beside all the former school administrators.
I can remember once spending a long late evening pleading the case of a student to the Morgan County sheriff. He’d been caught with an illegal substance, had a rotten home life, was a brilliant kid, and had made a very bad decision. I failed to appeal my case well because the boy spent a year or so in prison, so it was a delight to have him Facebook me some twenty years later. The kid is now worth millions and owns several underwater farms off the coasts of Japan and Australia. He said that when he got out of prison his only salable skill was his ability to speak, which he’d picked up at Junior High speech contest. I thought about asking him if he needed to run an under-the-sea farm in Florida near my condo.
Of course the real joy of Facebook-tracking is to discover the former students who had a rough go of it in school, who went largely unnoticed by institutions that gave out awards for touchdowns, 3-pointers, and high grades but generally ignored you if you were simply kind to others. To see these “kids” now with happy families and good jobs … well, it’s a compensation that no Florida winter home can match. I like to see the good guys win.