What happens to teachers after the last bell of the day rings? Do we crawl into a coffin hidden in the front of the room, sleep through the afternoon and evening, and rise again with the morning sun to teach once more? Do we travel hours away from our school to live in a remote community alone and far from students? Oh, I know! We go home, lock the door, and never leave again.
Last week I made a pit stop at the bank before heading home. Shortly after beginning my transaction, one of my students got in line behind me. I didn’t notice him right away but when the teller called me by my first name, he spoke up.
“I’m going to start calling you Stacy,” the student announced.
I was a bit caught off guard and I wasn’t sure what to say at first. I always try to be relateable to my students. As a coach, my players all knew that my name is Stacy and often would refer to me as Coach Stacy. I use twitter with my students and my first name is clearly seen there. But for this student, my first name was a mystery. It seemed that when he learned my first name, I became more than Mrs. McNally. I became relateable to this student as a person outside of my classroom.
How did I miss this student? How have I not made a connection with him outside of the walls of my classroom? Why was he so shocked to see me beyond JMHS? I know about his life. I know where he works, his educational history, his work habits, his writing styles. I know the type of music I can find on his iPhone and the friends he talks with at lunch. I know where he prefers to sit in class and even his favorite way to eat chicken nuggets. I was successful in getting to know this student, and I’m confident he can tell you about Mrs. McNally. But last week at the bank was the first time he met Stacy.
Stacy and Mrs. McNally have a lot of the same characteristics, but they’re different too. We are both outgoing and outspoken. We both love to laugh and have a good time. Mrs. McNally and Stacy both like to dress up and look nice, but Stacy is much more likely to be in a volleyball t-shirt and sweat pants than Mrs. McNally’s typical heels and dress clothes. Mrs. McNally wakes up at 5am each day to have herself ready for work and to take the boys to daycare. Stacy can sleep in and lounge in bed all weekend with a good book. Mrs. McNally’s classroom is decorated in zebra and bright colors. Stacy’s home is more reserved and favors a country decor.
Some teachers may believe they need to keep their school persona and their personal life separated. I understand the need to keep my personal life personal, but I need to merge my two different people into one person in the classroom. It’s okay to let your students see a little more of the real you within your room. They can know you shop at the local Kroger and bank at the same place as they do. Our students will connect with us and work harder for us once they see that we are more than teachers. We are mothers, we are little league coaches, we love the same things as they do, we both order the same burger at the same burger joint, and we even know all the words to their favorite song. We can connect with our students on a fundamental level as people and still maintain the professionalism we all need to have by letting our walls down just a little. Let your students see the you behind the teacher, and I think you will see your connections become more meaningful.
I’m going to give it a shot! Let’s see if Stacy and Mrs. McNally can coexist in New Wing 2 South and form one really amazing person.