My wife jokes that we cannot go anywhere without me running into someone I know. What is nice is that these incidents where I run into students at the store or at dinner are - so far- positive.
But it has also served as a reminder-
I am not anonymous.
I find myself very aware of what I purchase, how I tip, and how I act in public because in a our "little" town of just over 100,000 people, I am always running into students.
Now, a teacher has a right to their private life. But that is no excuse for us acting in a manner on Saturday that will impact our relationships with students come Monday. And there are several key areas we need to be keenly aware and take action to protect our character in the eyes of our students.
You have a right- and obligation- to practice your politics. Whether you vote R or D or EDU- it does not matter except that you do it. The area you need to be careful in is HOW you go about your politics. In our classroom, we must keep our politics out by law. But when our students see us out advocating for our politics- are they seeing us advocate with character and integrity or with the kind of political speak becoming all too common?
I work very hard to keep students from knowing my political affiliation because with my content (especially debate) I want students to develop their own politics- not parrot mine. I never want to teach my debaters to "say it like I would," rather to speak like they mean it. And if I am able to encourage both sides of a political debate in my class, I need to be able to accept and respectfully debate those politics when I am not in the classroom. So if my student sees me, they see me maintaining my same character.
I used to be a minister. Once, at a high school basketball game, I stood next to a deacon of my church as he proceed to take off his hat (which bore the church name) and scream a taunt at the referee. Then he smiled as he put the hat back on.
What that spoke to me was that he knew his behavior did not represent the church well, so he wanted to hide his affiliation.
As a teacher, you are not anonymous. Your actions at your child's sporting event, or your students', will be noticed. Are you POSITIVELY supporting your team, or NEGATIVELY running down the other- which by the way, if not for geography, could have been your students? If you are showing poor sportsmanship, it will be contagious.
To clear the air, I do not drink. It is a personal choice, and one that I have held my entire life. The sum total of alcohol I have consumed could probably be contained in a medium sized beer mug. My choice is not everyone's, so I recognize and support a teacher's right to drink an adult beverage.
But it must be said that when doing so in public, I believe we need to hold ourselves to a higher standard. If I did drink, it would not bother me if a student saw me responsibly consuming a beverage if I was of age. Because I am still modeling a law abiding right that they too will some day have. But if my student saw me drunk or hungover- what moral stance could I have with my student come Monday?
I know what the argument is- as an adult over 21, I can drink as much as I want. True. But as an adult teacher over 21, SHOULD you? If I am drunk behind closed doors at my home- that is one thing. But drunk at a public place like a restaurant, wedding, or tailgate? What image does that convey to a student about self control?
Finally, if you have ever been at a restaurant and had students see you or even wait on you- how did it affect your behavior?
I am very aware of my actions toward the staff- is it respectful and courteous or demanding and rude? Being aware that students are watching how I treat others when I expect them to treat others with respect daily makes my interactions here important.
And tipping? Especially if your student is the server? That is a tough one, but know that your actions there will have a lasting impact on that student no matter how much or little you leave.
I do not want to be preachy about this- but I implore you to be mindful when you are out there. Eyes are watching you. You may not have the paparazzi snapping shots of you- but a far more important audience is. They are taking note if you are the same in the class as out- holding yourself to similar standards that you hold them to.
You are not anonymous, afterall.
I teach Psychology, Sociology, World History Honors and Debate at College Station High School, as well as coach the debate team, sponsor the TED Ed Club, and I am the Lead Innovator for LEADS CSISD (A student leadership empowerment program for 5th-8th graders). I am an aspiring administrator.