A couple years ago, while teaching in Northbrook, the social worker on our team stumbled across a blog kept by the parent of one of our students. I read several posts and found it charming, insightful, and witty, and because much of it revolved around the student I taught, I found it highly interesting. And yet, I felt somewhat uncomfortable reading it because it was such a personal view into the family's life. Reading it felt almost like eavesdropping on a family conversation to which I wasn't sure I was invited. I believe I complimented the mother on her beautiful writing at the time, but I decided that our communication should happen in modes that encouraged two-way dialogue, like the communication notebook that went home every night.
As a Special Education teacher, I always worked very hard to establish deep connections with all of my students. Even in a population known for difficulty showing and interpreting emotions appropriately, a strong relationship can motivate a student to work hard when little else can. With some students, this bond takes months of effort to establish. With others, it happens easily, as if you just know that this child would have been your own best friend had timing been different. One of my students in Northbrook was like this. She was a tiny, sensitive-skinned girl with a beautiful mess of brown hair that seemed as big as she was some days. She ate the foods I liked, like spicy curries, salads with dried cranberries and blue cheese, and salsa by the spoonful, and we preferred many of the same activities- finger painting, swinging, cooking, and walking the therapy dog. She wore hand-knit dresses and home made coats that made me enviously wish the same items were available in my size. It was her mother who kept the blog, beautifully intertwining stories about her daughter's growth with her passion for knitting intricate works of wearable art.
When she left our program, I missed this student like I would miss a friend. I began reading her mother's blog daily- the first I ever followed. I chuckled when my little friend used scissors to take some length off her own hair, cheered on her progress with her private speech therapist, and literally screamed with joy when she was accepted into an excellent new school... but I never commented on the posts for fear her mother would think, for any number of reasons, that my continued interest in her daughter was somehow crossing the line. Two years later, she posted her first video of her daughter. You know how a picture is worth a thousand words? I think a video is worth several million, and I just had to comment on it. It was a big move- I was loosing my anonymity. Much to my relief, instead of posting about how creepy it was that some teacher never stopped following her child, the mother wrote me a friendly email in response to my comment. I was grateful to receive it, to re-establish two-way dialogue, and to be accepted as a blog follower.
Yesterday, I checked my email and discovered that I had a comment on one of my own posts- the student's mother, Jen, asked for my address so that she could send something to Tye. I checked her blog for her email address, and when I did, I saw her most recent post, titled "Bucktown Baby Dress." As I read it, looking at the photos of itty-bitty patterned stitching, my eyes welled with tears. Could it be for Tye? Really? I started following Jen's blog, the first I ever read, because I loved her daughter. Now I have my own daughter, and my own blog, and I'm reading a post about a beautiful dress that might be for my daughter and writing my own post about both of our daughters. I've decided that blogs can be pretty great after all.