Retirement of Your Elementary School Students: Keeping in Touch with Facebook

Frank B. WithrowBy Frank B. Withrow

As a teacher there always is one learner you cannot reach. You wonder why since your lesson plans seem in order, the other kids are learning but Suzy is stagnating. I had a girl who should have done well, but she had a hearing loss and was also mildly cerebral palsied. She was not a bad learner but also not really a good learner. I was never satisfied with her progress but also could not point out exactly where she fell short.

Central Institute for the Deaf, St. Louis MO

Central Institute for the Deaf, St. Louis MO

Forty years afterwards, she wrote me and asked why she failed. She never married, never worked and really never fully participated in the world. I could not answer her question, but it did not surprise me that she never became integrated into society. Almost intuitively I knew she would not make it.

I recently heard from a classmate of hers who had retired from being a school janitor. He was beloved by the teachers and students in his school. Being a janitor does not sound like a wonderful success story, but it does not surprise me that he did his work well and was socially liked by all who came in contact with him. As a kid he was hyperactive and into everything. In fact, he was so into everything people thought of him as a pest. Yet he has contributed to society and been a taxpayer rather than a tax consumer. He is a success story.

I taught multiply disabled students fifty-five years ago. It is interesting to find some of those students on Facebook. Some are very successful with good jobs and families of their own. My former students live all over the nation — even the world. It is nice to be able to find and follow them on Facebook. They are in their seventies so I must be getting a bit older myself.

I was a Scoutmaster as well as a teacher. My first Eagle Scout was a great kid. He was not the smartest, but he was the most compassionate and born leader I ever had. He worked hard to achieve but also wanted everyone else to experience what he was doing. He is close to 80 now and still a leader. He has worked in charities and still wants to help others. He has had a long and happy marriage. He says he has no intention of retiring and still believes he can help others.

Some of my students have children who have gone on to accomplish outstanding things. Central Institute for the Deaf in St. Louis where I taught will be 100 years old in 2014. I look forward to its reunion. In the meantime Facebook brings back memories.

My large family is spread from New Hampshire to Texas and the West Coast. I have been impressed that Facebook helps us follow one another. It would be an interesting study to examine how Facebook engages families and reconnects teachers with students.

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