Happy Birthday to Gmail
Five years ago I was teaching my first advanced course at the high school. Even though I was probably overwhelmed and surprised by their abilities in contrast to the kids I'd had the year before, I still think they were some of the sharpest I've had.
I got a Gmail "invite" (because you had to be invited
to use Gmail) from one of those students. A strange, awkward, outspoken girl who usually excelled in math and science, she didn't believe me when I recommended her for the gifted program in creative writing. She would e-mail me all the time, long, rambling philosophical e-mails that I thought carefully about before replying. She didn't understand when one of her classmates started a Gay-Straight Alliance, bluntly asking (because that was how she asked everything--bluntly) why it was needed. When I explained as best I could about education and equality, a look of excitement came over her face and she exclaimed something like, "We can just show them the evidence that it's biological, and then they won't be able to be prejudiced!" She became the club's first secretary, and came out after she graduated.
But before all that, and after she invited me to Gmail, she disappeared from my class suddenly, and I got a note from the Guidance Counselor that she was in the local hospital's psych ward under observation, because she had written some things about hurting herself. I wondered about all those e-mails she had sent me, if there was something in her challenging, dark ramblings that I should have recognized. At the time I was still a relatively new teacher, just trying to respond as best I could to my students. I hadn't accepted her invitation to Gmail, wouldn't get on the Gmail train until that summer, when Lulu
converted me. Then I just hoped she would be OK, and five years later, she is.