challenges

The Off Season

I am a teacher. I work from 8:00 am (or earlier) until 4:00 pm 190 days a year. During those hours I am a role model for little kids, a good colleague to my co-workers, and so on. What happens when I head out to stores to do errands after school?

As an elementary school teacher, I honestly still watch myself a lot of the time. I know I could look up at a store or restaurant and see little eyes looking up at me with an incredulous squeal: Mom, it’s Dr. Friese!! This has happened many times. For that reason, I can’t be cursing or loading up on margaritas when I am out and about, especially within a certain radius of my school.

This self-censorship of sorts extends to social media. I rarely post anything except for very “innocent” family or fitness updates. I stay out of photos where drinking or other grown-up activities are involved. I don’t post political content as much as I can avoid it. I have just a handful of select parents who can see what I post. Otherwise, I just refuse most of those requests, but I am still aware than many people could be looking. I sit through legal presentations each year that share examples of teachers losing their jobs because they post themselves doing legal, adult things online that a parent used against them. Better safe than sued or jobless is my mindset, I guess.

Some comments lately had me wondering if this is fair…as a teacher, I feel expected to hold up some sort of rated-G moral standard no matter where I am. The other roughly 14 hours a day and 175 days a year I am not at school, I often mentally steer away from situations where I can be captured doing “inappropriate” things. But is it fair to expect that I’ll just be basically angelic most of the time? Is being a teacher what I do or who I am? Who gets to decide?

Others close to me have been in this situation lately as well. A friend who is a nurse had a family member go through a medical crisis. She wasn’t completely happy with the way all the care was going and let the staff know it. She wasn’t ugly or unreasonable as much as firm and inquisitive. She was told she wasn’t being professional. But her role in this situation was that of a family member advocating for her parents’ health. Does she have to be a professional even in her personal life?

What other jobs seem to carry the expectation of acting a certain way 24/7/365… am I always a mother? A father? How about the captain of an athletic team? Do I have to behave “as a captain” even in the off season? What does that mean? If I am a forklift operator or a chef, I don’t have the weight of those jobs following me around all the time. How about an athletic coach to young people? A politician? A priest? A police officer? Why do some jobs or roles become identities and others allow you to clock out and just be who you are?

I don’t have solutions for this. It just troubles me how some jobs or roles are seen as 24/7 while others can be left behind when work is over. It’s not even the highest paid people who can just shed their professions at will. Some onlookers use these roles as a weapon when they don’t like what you are doing. (Heaven forbid you’re a teacher and post something with spelling errors!)

In the end, we are all just human, with likes and dislikes, flaws and foibles and lives outside of our work. Just a few early morning thoughts.

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