(photo @ freedigitalphotos.net)
For many years, primary and secondary school-aged children have generally had a predictable response to seeing their teachers out in public. It was usually a mix of awe and bewilderment over the fact that we actually set foot outside of the school building in which they always observed (and were tormented by) us.
But with the advent of social media, many students are now much more aware that their teachers exist within the community as regular (and not so regular) people. But my own personal experiences indicate that your students observing you out in public can create some fairly odd social interactions.
When you're spotted by students that like you.
This is always a pleasant surprise, especially for people like me who have wildly inconsistent self-esteem levels. If one student sees you, it's always nice to have them come up and say hello.
If a group of adoring students sees you, however, the waves of screaming adoration that can occur have the ability to make you feel a bit like a rock star (who still has to drive themselves home and pick up groceries on the way).
But no matter how much you love the kids that you teach, there will come a time when you will have to deal with 'Pregnancy Personal Barrier Blindness.'
PPBB is a phenomenon that pregnant women constantly have to face. For some reason, people feel that it is perfectly okay to walk up to them and touch their stomachs. It doesn't matter if the person knows them or not; they will place their hand (or both hands) right there on her belly while she attempts to force an uncomfortable smile while scanning for the nearest exit.
"No need to see if I'm still pregnant; a
homeless guy on the subway already checked."
While I've never had a student walk up to me and randomly touch my stomach, I have had them completely forget any concept of personal space or social barriers that they had exhibited in school. Students have sat down at my table in a restaurant, sat next to me and my wife at the movies, and stared at me intently for 20 minutes while I was talking on the phone.
It's worth mention that this reaction is also perfectly understandable. You've always been focused on them and their classmates during every other interaction they've had with you, so it may not dawn on them (especially the younger ones) that things should be any different at Applebee's.
PPBB can be a minor annoyance sometimes, but it's a small price to pay to have your students excited to see you.
When you're spotted by students who don't like you.
Those of you who have never taught before may be worried about this happening. But what you might not realize is that these interactions often have the most potential to create a hilariously odd situation.
The most common thing you will experience in this situation is having the student (or students) try and hide from you. I noticed this once while sitting in Starbucks; a student that I had written up multiple times that school year began dashing behind shelves and serving tables in a feeble attempt to keep me from seeing him.
This perplexed me for a couple of reasons:
1. I had no power to write him up or enact any other type of discipline inside of a coffee shop.
2. I really didn't want to see or interact with him, either.
His antics, which made the other customers stare at him like a squirrel that had lost its mind, ended up drawing more attention from me than if he had just gone about his business (and we both could have ignored each other in peace).
Another time while I was walking towards the movie theater, I heard a student shout "Mr. N is a #$%&ing PUSSY!"
I assumed that this was a student (and not an adult antagonist) based on the fact that despite referring to me as a "#$%&ing pussy," they still had the decency to address me by honorific/formal title.
Unfortunately, I never was never able to identify who said this to me (and subsequently deduce why they may have considered me to be a "#$%&ing pussy.") In a hilariously supreme act of irony, the student took off like a jack rabbit in other direction as soon as I turned my head and looked at him.
What happens when students spot you doing something weird
As many of you may know (or will now find out), I am an action figure collector. While I am not ashamed of my awesome hobby, I am also well aware that it is an odd one for a 33-year-old man to have.
That's why one Friday afternoon while shopping at Target, I was a bit thrown off my game when a student saw me in line at the cash register. He was far enough away that I was pretty sure he hadn't seen me...or the Darth Maul Returns battle pack I had just snagged off the shelves.
I already owned Savage Opress and had a custom cybernetic Darth Maul
I liked better, but the Nightsister figure was worth the price of the whole thing.
But on Monday, I discovered that I was wrong. As my students handed in their weekly music vocabulary quizzes, I noticed that the student I had seen at the store had a message written underneath his name. It read:
Star Wars toys + Vitamin Water + Twizzlers = A Good Weekend
And you know what? The kid was right; it did make for a pretty good weekend (or the start of one, anyway). And it's also completely okay if your students know that you're a person with hobbies and a life outside of school.
While their parents (or parent) may be the primary adults in their lives, many of their cues on how adults act will be taken from their teachers. This is doubly true for any students that have a bad or tumultuous home life.
You may need to watch certain aspects of your behavior (like I do while watching Kentucky football games in public), but there is nothing wrong with your students also seeing you as a regular, every day person....
...even if it ends with them calling you an obscene name while running away.
Please feel free to leave a comment below. If you'd like to sing my praises or tell me how terrible I am more personally, I can also be found on Twitter.