Of students (again)

[Vignettes I and II are here.]


I unexpectedly encountered two former students recently: one via email, the other in person. Both were from the very first batch of students I taught --- a long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.

The first had looked me up in the online teachers' directory, which only teachers have access to --- so yes, she's turned to the Dark Side and joined the teaching profession. Nothing like struggling with stubborn young minds to make you appreciate the people who once struggled with yours. Her email was all, "Sorry our class gave you such a hard time way back when, 'cause now I know what teachers face everyday and dagnabbit, it is a hard time" (though not in precisely those words). No hard feelings, kid. The trick is to let go of however hard the time was once you step out of the classroom, and get on with your life.

(For the record, her class was not that bad. So there was the spell of wanton absenteeism, which pissed me off enough that I painstakingly compiled everyone's abysmal attendance records to flash on a transparency during class, then grilled each student in turn about each and every unaccounted-for absence. And I remember asking them to write down what they would put in a time capsule to be opened in fifty years' time, and one girl, in all seriousness, suggested, "A French manicure set." But that's all I can remember. Really.)

The second student spotted me on the bus. In returning his hello, I got his name wrong. But at least I remembered who he was! --- mostly because he used to defiantly not pay attention during my lessons and frequently reeked of cologne after returning from the restroom, which I suspected, but never proved, was because his restroom breaks were really smoking breaks. Now he's studying at the local university and seems a little restless than he used to be. Yay for him.


It turns out that at least one of the students I currently teach lives a stone's throw from me. She shyly asked about it a few days ago, to which my immediate response was: "Have you seen me around, in my old spectacles and dressed like an auntie, at the coffeeshop or something?" Because I don't care if students know where I live, so much as I care whether they've seen me in my "home clothes" (a Singaporeanism for the ratty old T-shirts and faded shorts that we wear at home, or when we potter round to the corner shops in ugly flipflops).

Fortunately, she said she'd seen me running in the neighbourhood, and also occasionally on the way to school in the morning. Whew! Sartorial embarrassments avoided, for now. There's nothing more discomfiting than to be dressed in the aforementioned disreputable home clothes and meeting your student with his/her parents. Imagine forthwith:
Student: (excited) Mom, Dad, this is Ms So-and-So, my English teacher!
Me: (stuttering, mortified) Uh, hello, Mr and Mrs Parents-who-have-placed-the-fate-of-your-child's-examination-results-in-my-hands.
Parents: (archly) Oh, so this is your teacher ...
And --- scene.

Having said that, the knowledge that a student lives in the vicinity did nothing to stop me from wearing home clothes down to the coffeeshop for dinner tonight. Because I'm vain, shallow and fickle.


At 6/02/2005 2:26 pm , Blogger stellou said...

eh! home clothes! i likes home clothes!

i am packing, as you know, and i just put a bunch of t-shirts in the salvo-designated box, but i have been quietly thinking, over the last hour, that i need to take out one of said t-shirts, because it will be good for home clothes in londers.

At 6/03/2005 3:58 am , Anonymous Anonymous said...

My hubby is a teacher... and *i* feel paiseh when we meet his student in our neighbourhood!

now i have clothes to go walk-walk in and clothes to lounge at home in.

sigh ... more to launder...

At 6/03/2005 1:29 pm , Blogger Tym said...

I am not as discriminating as The Carpenter's mother or faith-t: I went down to the coffeeshop last night in a ratty tanktop from This Fashion, a really old pair of McBlue shorts and flipflops, with my fringe anyhow pinned up with one of those baby clincher combs. Very heartlander.

Stellou --- Rescue the shirt. You'll be glad you did.

PS: I never had "home clothes" when I was in college, though. Maybe there's something about it...

At 6/07/2005 11:42 am , Blogger Andrew said...

... thereby proving the existence of the category of "aunty clothes" ?

At 6/07/2005 11:44 am , Blogger Andrew said...

my mum's a teacher, and she too tries not to venture into public areas underdressed - lest she bump into students

At 6/09/2005 9:51 pm , Blogger cole. said...

nice post. but i disagree with the fear of letting students see teachers in their 'natural' state. teachers are normal human beings too.

At 6/10/2005 2:07 am , Anonymous Anonymous said...


would like to ask you some questions relating to your work.

can you email me @ [email protected]?


At 6/14/2005 11:22 am , Blogger Tym said...

I suspect that all the angst over how teachers behave when spotted off-duty by their students springs from their putative function as role models. If part of the job involves, alas, scolding or punishing a student, you need every iota of authority you can get --- and having them see you in an uncredible manner can really undermine that.

Of course, whether home clothes constitutes an uncredible manner is another matter altogether...


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