Then disaster struck. A month into teaching, the cafeteria decided to use thin paper trays instead of sturdy plastic ones. I didn’t realize how thin until my tray buckled and the food slid gracefully to the floor. There was utter silence. I was mortified, convinced the entire cafeteria would burst out laughing as I crouched on the floor, trying to scrape my mess back onto the tray. Suddenly my students were on the floor with me, helping me. And the first to help were three boys who were often in the principal’s office. That was the moment when I knew that they knew that I truly liked them and wanted them to succeed.
When I’m asked how I connect on social media, I recall this experience and the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” People naturally want to know what you can do for them. We know to sympathize in times of sorrow, offer prayers for the sick, and rejoice in their happy times. I want to take an interest beyond these basics by noting a gorgeous banner, responding to offbeat humor with a valiant attempt at my own, congratulating a good review, sharing posts. If an author’s book cover is wonderful, and many are, I look for something specific to make a meaningful compliment. I click on their links to learn more.
I also recall Georgia O’Keefe: “To make a friend takes time.” If I like someone on Twitter, I try to friend them on Facebook and Google +. If I want to know someone, I need to interact. This is as true on social media as it is in a classroom.