I’ll be the first to admit that I talk like a teacher. If you are an educator, you probably know exactly what I mean. It doesn’t matter whether you work with kindergarteners or seniors, you just communicate in a different way when you’re a teacher.
I teach high school English, and I love it. We talk a lot. I talk a lot. But I’ll admit I often can’t stop speaking as if I’m talking to kids. It’s hard, though. As a teacher, you’re never completely off-duty, and unfortunately, it can take a toll on life outside the classroom. Here are the five ways being a teacher has affected me. Sound familiar?
1. I have trouble speaking at a soft volume.
When you’re a teacher, it’s hard to lose the Teacher Voice. For instance, if I’m in a crowd or at a party, I’m conditioned to try to speak over everyone. In a crowded classroom when it’s time to get everyone settled, it works wonders. But in a living room full of adults, I just sound obnoxious. This is especially the case if I’m raising my voice to explain why my take on said film is more nuanced than anyone else’s in the room. Even at home, my wife’s frequent refrain is, “I’m right across the table, you don’t have to yell.”
2. I must organize … everything.
I’ve learned that adults don’t like being told what to do. While your students need and expect this, it doesn’t translate well to social settings. Parties can be tough for me. They are often filled with adults that are baffling to me because you’d think they know better. “That’s not a good place to leave a glass. I don’t think you should touch the music without asking the host. I know you have to pee really bad, but you’re blocking the door for everyone.” I can also be a nightmare at team bonding activities or board game nights. I tend to be too competitive, and I want to organize everyone my own way.
3. Everyone expects me to be the organizer.
I know I just complained about my need to organize, but on the flip side, it can also be tough when people start expecting that of you. For instance, I’m a parent and frequently attend children’s activities, so I find that other adults expect me to keep their kids in check. They want me use my aforementioned “teacher voice” when kids aren’t listening or teenagers are being … teenagers. For the most part, I can handle this. Just don’t be surprised if I’m tempted to teach an impromptu professional development workshop. When my fellow soccer coach turns to me with a shrug and wonders why the kids aren’t listening, I’ll start asking questions: Did you set clear expectations? Can you follow through if you make a threat of punishment? Are you sure punishment and not reward is the best way to handle this? If you don’t model the task, can you expect the kids to learn it? Yeah, let’s add soccer practice to that list of places I’m a nightmare at.
4. I am impossible to see movies with.
I’m an English teacher, and I’m used to explaining. So you are bound to get a lecture if you see a movie with me (see above entry). It could be Pixar (that flashing traffic light in Cars is clearly a symbol), Star Wars (I know you’re only 11, but you should know Joseph Campbell), or more adult fare (Yes, Ex Machina is about our obsession with technology but it’s also about our anxiety as creators or parents of things we can’t control, like Frankenstein). Um, this list of places I’m tough to be around is getting a bit long.
5. I think I have the Force.
The last way I struggle socially is actually my favorite. It has to do with the authority we teachers develop over time. In my classroom, the wave of my hand carries immense power. It can make a student’s cell phone disappear or make someone stop talking and pick up a pen. It can also make someone start talking and answer a question. I even employ the Jedi Mind Trick on occasion: “That’s not a good idea, is it?” “No, Mr. Block, that’s not a good idea.” This doesn’t work the same with adults, though. In the real world I just get funny looks. A graceful wave of my hand does not get someone else to swipe my credit card faster at checkout nor does it get that car to move over into the empty lane when I’m in a hurry.
It’s true my social skills might be lacking in some areas because of my job, but I definitely love doing what I do. With all the students I get to work with and lives I get to touch, guess talking like a teacher isn’t so bad after all.