This article was written by Dave Webb - a teacher with 29 years experience. He is the author of ten books for young people, a memoir of his teaching experiences, and a book for parents and teachers entitled, Read, Understand, Enjoy: Getting Kids to LOVE Books. Find his books and more on his website.
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You’re out in public and someone has pegged you for an educator. Again. How in world does this keep happening? Well, you’re a teacher and you’re wearing it, all over. Here are some ways we keep being identified without even telling anyone.
1. Chalk on your clothes.
This one is for us “old school” teachers who still use chalk to write on a blackboard. Sometimes I don’t even realize it until I’m already out in public. I’ll be in line at the grocery store and the cashier will say, “You’re a teacher, right?” I look at them and say, “Right! How did you guess?” They point to the chalk on my sleeves and lapel and laugh. “It’s also on your face,” one woman added.
2. You correct people’s grammar. (BTW, people don’t like this, so keep it to a minimum. A minimum of never.)
Once, one of our secretaries said “supposubly” and I corrected her. She didn’t seem too pleased that I pointed it out with another person in the room. I think some of my mail got lost that week.
3. You order kids meals at fast food restaurants just to get the toys.
When I taught younger students I would get kids meals for my prize box and the drive-thru window clerk would ask if my toy was for a boy or a girl. “I need one for a girl this time,” I said one time as the familiar face in the window saw there was no one in the car with me again, but remembered my last visit. “How many kids do you have?” she asked. “Twenty-three,” I replied.
4. You tell everyone, no matter who they are, that their shoes are untied.
As an elementary school teacher, shoes being unlaced is such a common occurrence that you can’t help looking down at people’s feet while walking, especially if you’ve been teaching as long as I have.
5. You over-explain things when talking to other adults.
I think my siblings were the first ones to notice this. A typical response might go something like this, “Yes, Dave, I think I know what non-renewable means.”
6. Your teacher bag.
You know the look. There’s a certain type of large, handled bag we all tote around, and as soon as we get out of our cars or enter a room with it, everyone knows. Inside you’ve got extra tissues, pencils, and eraser, along with grade books, papers, and God-knows-what-else you stuck in there back in August.