When we all started taking courses in college to become educators, most of us probably didn’t take into account the ripple effect that comes along with being a teacher in the community. In the beginning, we believed that we would just be in front of our class every day, teaching the curriculum to students who are interested in learning. We would live a pretty quiet life between home and school. At least, that is what we mistakenly thought.
No Such Thing as a Quiet Life When You Are a Teacher
I remember the moment I first realized being a teacher made me an instantly recognizable celebrity in the community. I had only been teaching a couple of months at this point. I was the district Reading Specialist and was helping about 50 students a day from all grade levels increase their overall reading achievement.
I went to get groceries at the supermarket one night and the next thing I knew, three of my students were attached at my hip. Even though I had never met their parents yet, their parents obviously thought it was okay to let their children follow Mr. Crawley as he bought his groceries for the week. Every item I bought off the shelf, I second guessed myself on whether or not I was setting a good example for these kids. I ended up getting mostly milk, meat, and eggs. I left anything that was not nutritious on the shelves. Of course, I had to go back later that night to get the rest of my groceries in peace and quiet without judging eyes.
Have you ever tried watching a film at the local movie theater when you have been teaching for a decade or so? Good luck trying to focus on the actors on screen. No matter which movie you choose, expect to have at least ten kids and parents coming up to say hello in the first few minutes of the movie. After a while, I learned to make my entrance once all the lights were already down. There are fewer interruptions that way.
You Are Their Role Model
When you are an educator, especially in a community where you frequently run into your students and their parents, you are to be a constant role model for everyone you encounter. All eyes are on you whether you know it or not. Many of your students probably do not have parents that can be considered role models in the first place, so any impact you make on them will be remembered through the rest of their lives. I have had past students approach me years after they left my classroom and inform me that I was the only responsible adult in their life at that time. They said they remembered the academic lessons from my classroom, but more importantly, they learned what it meant to be a responsible and caring person.
A Problem Solver For All
A friend of mine (a fellow teacher) always enjoyed sharing a story about his first couple of years of teaching in a farming town. More than once, he had farmers come in and ask him questions related to math. They were wondering about square footage and acreage and how to figure out some of the problems they were encountering while planting and harvesting their crops. My friend said he had never even been on a farm before in his life, but he sat down and helped those farmers compute all the numbers and figured out some solutions to their problems.
You May Be Teaching Generations
If you teach a lengthy amount of time, say 20 to 30 years or so, you are going to encounter something that you would not have believed possible when you first started in education. You are going to be teaching generations of the same family.
My father was a high school teacher who taught for a long period of time, about 35 years, and he would often have students in his class in the later years that would say he also taught their parents. He would have at least a couple per year during his last ten years before he retired. He would say that he never planned on being a teacher for so long, but he found it difficult to walk away. (Mostly, he just liked getting out of the house since he was a father to nine kids. It was a lot more peaceful at school.)
In any case, you will run into situations out in the community as an educator that you never would have believed could happen to you. I always likened it to the old Andy Griffith Show. The main character in the show, Andy, often seemed like the only sane one in the entire town as he was surrounded by a large cast of characters. If this doesn’t sum up teaching in a small to a middle-sized community, then I am not sure what does.