Sitting through class after class and listening to teachers spew information at us for five days a week can make it is easy for students to forget that those people up there at the whiteboard have lives of their own and that many of them go home to children just like us. All students have experienced a run-in with a teacher in a public space, like a store or restaurant, and been startled to realize that these people do not just do sit in dark rooms and do math or science all day. Surprising as it may be, teachers are normal adults with human emotions, favorite TV shows, interesting fashion, and often, kids.
“It’s normal for kids to not think about their teachers as human beings,” said South social studies teacher Brad Jungert, a father of two. “My life is a mystery to most of you. I show up at class, you show up at class, you leave the class, and that’s our relationship. Half the time when I see students out in public, they’re like: ‘OH WOW, YOU ARE A REAL PERSON. YOU’RE AT THE GROCERY STORE.’”
“When I was in high school, I thought all my teachers were robots,” South P.E. teacher Danielle Glenzel said. “I didn’t think they had lives or did all the things normal people did. I thought they were there to teach me and that was their entire purpose.”
South Spanish teacher Jacob Clark also thinks that students’ inattention to the outside lives of teachers is normal.
“I think it’s very natural for anyone to be around another person for a long time in a specific environment and then be shocked or not understand when they realize that there is another aspect of that person that exists outside of the environment that they always see them in,” Clark said.
My life is a mystery to most of you. I show up to class, you show up at class, you leave the class, and that’s our relationship.
Having kids is a big change to anyone’s life because being a parent is hard, and teachers with kids are not exempt from the rollercoaster of challenges parenting causes just because they are around kids all day. No one is a perfect parent and no one is a perfect teacher, but being one can help with the other.
“Being an educator has helped me be a better parent because all the management techniques we learn in becoming and being a teacher, especially in Phys. Ed., has helped me in parenting as far as better discipline and behavior modification. Teaching and parenting definitely help each other. But the positive reinforcement and student independence in my teaching style are tools I try to use on my own children, as well.”
However, some teachers see the reverse effect, with parenting improving their teaching skills.
“I really believe that being a parent has made me a better teacher,” said Clark. “Instead of seeing you as students, I see you as someone’s child, and because of the love I have for my own kids and wanting the best for them, I want to provide you guys with what I expect my children to have.”
While teachers who are parents get to see their children going through the system they work so hard to improve, the children of those parents often go through high school with expectations put on them by the reputations of their parents.
“My dad taught at the one high school in my town growing up,” South parent Emily Jerome said. “And I was so terrified all four years of high school, because I knew all my teachers were going to tattle to my dad what I had done that day, good or bad.”
When I was in high school, I thought all my teachers were robots.
Teacher parents also present another layer of complexity to the student-teacher relationship they share with their own kids’ friends. Going to a friend’s house and seeing their mom or dad doing normal things like cooking, cleaning, and being a family is a normal fact of life, until the same parent of your friend is now giving you tests and in charge of your grade. This dynamic between students who see their teachers outside of school regularly can be fun, but a certain level of boundaries are necessary.
“I think teaching kids who see you in a more personal light is fun, and being a teacher that teaches subjects like sex ed, it doesn’t get weird unless you let it get weird,” said Glenzel. As a teacher, you just have to have a professional attitude about it, which might be hard sometimes because kids who see you coaching or at home have different relationships with you, but it is our job to teach and we take it seriously.”
“Those boundaries that exist between teacher and student can and should blur outside of these walls,” said Kessler. “But when you walk into my profession, there are rules and boundaries, and I apply them equally to all students regardless of who they are, including my own daughter.”
Teachers dedicate much of their time to teaching and connecting with students to give us the best chance of succeeding in the “real world,” so it is important that we do them the same courtesy and show respect, but also see the real person behind the teacher.
“For me as a teacher, it is really rewarding when a student starts to see me as a person and not just a teacher, and talking about my kids usually brings that out of students,” Jungert added.
While there is no need to be nosy, learning things about your teacher and what their lives are like when they step outside this building can be a good change of perspective.