When you’re a teacher in a small town, it’s not a matter of if, but when, you will awkwardly run into your students. For me, it was on Friday night at the Aluna George concert.
It being one of the other assistants’ birthdays, the crew got together on Friday night to celebrate and eat massive amounts of junk food. Following this time-honored ritual of noshing down a stomach-churning combination of cheetos, wine, quesadillas, cookies, apple pie, chocolate-beetroot cake, and a shot of tequila for good luck, we ventured into town to see what sort of trouble we might get into at the local music festival that’s been going on all week.
I should have known that all of my students would be there.
I should have known it’d be awkward as heck.
I awkwardly head-nodded and smiled at a few of them to acknowledge their presence, and then went back to dancing along to the music. Of course, then I felt like all their eyes were on me and my American head-bobbing. (Apparently, the French prefer to show their appreciation for live music by standing stock-still and frowning as much as possible. They’re like the town from Footloose.)
Did anyone else ever hate the idea of seeing their teachers in public? I remember, even as a kid who loved school and the vast majority of her teachers, that running into them was always a bit surreal. I was pretty convinced that teachers just pulled a cot out from under their desks at the end of the day and slept at the school. There’s no way a teacher could have a family or spend any time thinking about anything other than bulletin board designs and lesson plans!
It turns out that teachers are real human beings with lives outside of school, and they find it just as weird as students do when they get caught out in public. Beyond that, I’m a foreign language teacher and in France that means that I’m supposed to speak ONLY English in the classroom: no French help allowed. But when I see a student in public, am I obliged to switch to English, or should I stick to French for the benefit of any non-anglophones around us?
It gets weird, and I usually end up busting out an awkward “Bonjour-‘ello!” before hustling off in whatever direction will get me farthest, fastest.
Such is my life.