I’ve been teaching an awful lot of Google Mail and Calendar classes lately, as my school district is moving into its new email platform1. And I mention during these classes that students will have email next year. In fact, it’s one of the big advantages for us – student email, somebody in the IT department figured, would cost us, at a minimum $500,000 – $600,000 to handle licenses and other odds and ends under our old system.
And the response to that’s been pretty positive. We said when we started that we’d be offering email for secondary students only. And then the elementary teachers started asking for mail for younger students. Eagerly. And we’re thinking about it and talking about how to make that work.
But I have to remind folks during the training that, even though the younger students are in the universal directory, and have access to Google Docs and other tools and services, they can’t yet access their email2. So if you send a younger student an email, they won’t get it for several years.
It was when I said this out loud today, not the first time I’ve said it, but the first time I was struck by what that might mean, that I realized that there might be a feature in there.
Suppose that when these students do get to access their email boxes, they’ve a few important notes written by people who care for them waiting during their email orientation. We could, if we wanted to, use the dormant email accounts of younger students in our district as a sort of time capsule for sending good stuff their way ahead of time.
I see plenty of reasons why the messages might never be read, or get lost among the clutter of notifications and odds and ends and whatnot that will also be waiting for those students when their mail’s turned on. But wouldn’t it be neat to send care packages to the future versions of our students today? Quick notes and longer messages of moments where they chose well, or were worthy of a moment’s pause. An occasional picture or two or a piece of work that really, really stood out, perhaps?
It’s likely wishful thinking3 , but I suspect the sending of the messages, received or not, would be a useful and productive pause for each of us. A time to honor the students our children are, and the people they may well be. It couldn’t hurt to take a moment to write down a few words to a child.
And I like the idea that sometime in the future, a student in the middle of a moment of doubt would stumble upon a note from a time when they did something well, or worth doing, or worth sharing. I like that perhaps they might get a chance to remember.
I say yes. That’s worth doing. Let’s make our digital spaces just as warm and inviting and kind as our physical ones. ((And let’s make sure our physical spaces are warm and inviting and kind, too.)) Of course, our students who’ll have email access today, well, I suspect they wouldn’t mind a kind note or two, either.
So let’s get right on that, okay? If you’ve five minutes this week, jot a note, electronic or otherwise, to a student who’s up to something interesting. Make their day. And mean it.((And, if you’d like to write to your future self, there are certainly services that you can use to do that. Try it out.))
- Google Apps for Education. We’re excited about it. [↩]
- We have it shut down for them by policy. [↩]
- And perhaps overly optimistic. I suspect some people who stumble across this post will worry about the fact that they’d be communicating with a student, that the communication might be dangerous because of future litigation. To those folks, I’d say something like: let’s not let the worst of us eclipse the best of what we might be. Choose your words carefully, but don’t stop being a good person. Good and kind and thoughtful people are necessary when there are so many not good folks, or so many folks trying to prey upon our worst fears. The best way to battle a bully is, of course, to provide a compelling model of better behavior. [↩]