As a teacher, I some times run into students outside of school. There are times when I duck my head and think, Please don't see me, like the time I was enjoying a giant margarita at Don Pablo's. Mostly, though, I smile, say hi, exchange brief chit-chat, then go along my way. I also always hope that I don't get the inevitable parent question of, "Can you tell me his/her grade?" because they, much like their child, don't realize that teachers actually do NOT have a gradebook microchip implanted in our brains. Imagine! But what really amuses me at seeing students in public is the way they blink at you in shock, as if they can't conceptualize that you have a life OUTSIDE of the school building. I once ran into a student at the grocery store, and he stared at me with his jaw practically dropped. I said hi, he mumbled hi, then the next day at school, he said, "What were YOU doing at the grocery store?" The temptation to say, "I'd tell you, but then I'd have to kill you," was strong, but I just smiled and said, "I was buying milk." Now, keep in mind, I don't teach elementary school. These are 8th graders reacting with shock and surprise at the mere suggestion of me being outside of their school world.
I've always wondered when kids develop this way of thinking. For example, do kindergartners express shock at seeing a teacher outside of school, or do they just accept it? I received an answer to this question last night when we ran into Luke's sitter and her husband at a local restaurant. We chose to sit in the rooftop dining area because it was such a beautiful night, plus my sometimes loud toddler would be less likely to bother other diners up there. As it turned out, we were the only ones up there for most of our meal, until we heard other people coming upstairs. Lo and behold, it was Luke's sitter and her husband, so we breathed a sigh of relief that Luke's squeals certainly wouldn't bother THEM. Upon seeing them, Luke shoved his plate of food away, folded his hands in his lap, and sat there very stoically, refusing to crack a smile. This is very unusual for Luke, who loves his sitter so much that he will sometimes try to go to her or her husband when I come to pick him up at night--thanks, Luke! They stood and chatted for about five minutes before taking the table next to us, the entire time Luke did not crack one smile. After they sat down, he continued to sneak furtive glances at them for about half an hour, until finally, he started grinning and placed a tater tot on his head. Ahh, that's the boy I know and love! At that point, it struck me that he just could not place what they were doing at the restaurant, the same restaurant where he was eating with Mama, Daddy, Papa, and Grammy, when he only ever sees them at their house. That at least answered my question of whether the sense of placement begins at a young age, but I wonder now, when does that shock wear off? Does it ever? As adults, do we not ever express surprise at it being "a small world, can't believe I an into you here?" Sure, we handle it better than children, but it seems like we still place people in certain roles and expect them to always be in that role.
Now if you'll excuse me, I need to crawl back into my classroom and hibernate until August 18th.