Imagine having 160 coworkers with whom you work closely; you know their families, their hobbies, their professional strengths and weaknesses. And you’re their boss who they all look to for direction and constant feedback.
Add to this hypothetical situation the fact that every year, you get 160 more coworkers to know intimately, work closely with, and lead, and that although the former 160 have ideally been promoted into different roles or departments, many of them still defer to you for professional and personal advice.
So, after a year in this imaginary job, you’re not only keeping track of those 160 coworkers who’re directly under your wing, but also mentoring a handful of past fledglings in some capacity. Every year you get a new batch and every year a handful of the old linger in your life. After a few years, that’s a lot of fucking coworkers to keep track of.
Replace those coworkers with students and you’ve just envisioned the life of a teacher. Since I now live and teach in the same town, this means that I can’t walk out my door without running into a “coworker”; in fact, my landlord’s granddaughter is a student at the school where I teach. I have literally walked out my door and run into a student.
Not only do I live where I teach, but the road into “town” from my house requires me to drive by the school where I teach, which is maybe a mile from my front door. This means that if I want to go to the grocery store in my shitty old pajamas, I’m not just risking seeing a student and perhaps her parents, but I have to experience the uncomfortable reality of being 100 feet from my workplace in purple zebra-print shorts and a fluorescent yellow crew neck sweatshirt with “Martha’s Vineyard” loudly stamped across the chest in bright purple block letters.
But I guess if I feel weird being near a school in my outfit, I probably don’t need to be wearing it to the grocery store. So in some ways, it’s a great litmus test for my wardrobe.
Because you probably thought I was exaggerating.
I’ve been in this school district for two short years and have only lived in the community for one short month, yet I haven’t gone out in town during that month – either to the grocery store, to dinner, or to the bar – without seeing at least one child who attends my school.
Sometimes, they don’t see me and (although I like all of my students) I don’t go out of my way to say hello. Because they’re busy living their own lives, and I’m probably wearing purple zebra-print shorts.
However, when they do see me, they’re never discreet about it. They’re teenagers and tact doesn’t start to grow until the mid twenties. If ever.
This means I’m constantly lurking around Target trying not to be seen with a cart full of beer and bagels, or frantically hiding the empty beers on the restaurant table when a child and his parents walk in. Basically, I spend my time trying to hide the amount of drinking that I actually do from everyone around me. This could potentially be indicative of a different issue, but I think that’s a post for another day.
And anyways, this is 2016, so it’s not just the fact that kids see me drinking and buying beer all over town, but also the fact that nothing is private no matter where or who you are. The internet made sure of that. Even when I commuted 60 miles to work kids would ask me about something I posted on Facebook or a picture of my cat I put up on Instagram, in spite of both accounts being private and protected.
It seems as though the work-life balance is permanently off-kilter. Now, it’s a work-life battle.
And life always loses.
Every day when I post in this blog I worry about students seeing it, or parents somehow getting upset about some political comment I’ve made or the fact that I use the word “fuck” a lot more than I really need to. Believe it or not but I hold back from a lot of what I’d like to say on here, and a lot of the stories I’d like to tell, because I know there’s a legitimate risk in what’s published online.
Just like there’s a risk in wearing fluorescent sweatsuits to the grocery store.