Being a teacher means the world looks different to me from the way it might otherwise. It means I behave differently. If I hear a song with especially poignant lyrics, I think, “I could use this in class!” If I read an article that I think my students could benefit from, I cut it out and save it, even if it is the middle of the summer, because I know it will be useful at some point.
These are good things. These attributes lead to productive behaviors, which might actually benefit me someday. Not so for all of my teacher instincts. For example, no one benefits from my thinking I can discipline strange teenagers in the movie theater. No one benefits from my scolding drunk youths in a restaurant. These behaviors might in fact, be dangerous. My companions certainly seem to think so. They admonish me to please, please keep my mouth shut and mind my own business. They point out that I am not at work and these teenagers might not respond positively to being scolded by an unknown thirty-something white lady. I take the pleas of my family and friends under advisement and most of the time, I bite my tongue.
However, you can a take a girl out of the classroom, but you cannot take the classroom out of the girl. Sometimes I do quickly shoot someone my “teacher look” even when it is not my place to do so. What is amazing is how often it works. I guess I am not the only person with ingrained instincts. So, as long as I keep my mouth shut, I bet I can survive a whole summer without any notable incident.
And not all my instincts are off-base. The other day I was in the grocery store and I saw a young man, wearing an athletic jersey and a pair of low-slung shorts. He was covered in tattoos. I thought, “That young man is a gangster.” But, my instinct was not to be afraid of him because he was obviously a member of a gang. I felt no need to avoid him because of this. And why would I? He and I left the grocery store just seconds apart and a low-riding sedan pulled up to pick him up. The passenger window rolled down and the driver shouted, “Hey! Hey! Ms. S!”
I walked over to the car and had a lovely conversation with a former student. Over the course of our chat, he admitted that he had “a bit of an attitude” while he was in school and he was learning to control it in his adult life. Then he introduced me to his tattooed, muscular friend, who shook my hand politely, looked me in the eye and said, “Nice to meet you.”
Overall, I think the way I get to see the world is pretty nice.