The Blackboard Jungle: Teachers’ Lives Outside of School
Today, in the spirit of being a teacher, I’m offering up a short quiz:
True or False
- Most teachers have lives outside of school.
- It is safe to assume that teachers, especially those with children, have had sex, or at least have heard about sex.
- Teachers can enjoy diverting hobbies in their spare time.
- Teachers might have side jobs to generate extra income.
If you answered TRUE to all of the statements above, give yourself an A+!
So, if we understand that teachers are people with lives outside of the classroom, why is it that a veteran English teacher with almost 25 years of dedicated service is being defamed, maligned as a pedophile, by parents via a local television station?
The teacher in question was recently outed by WNEP, an ABC news affiliate in Pennsylvania, as the author of erotica romance novels. The educator, who writes under the pen name Judy Mays, has authored more than 7 novels and was connected to the novels by WNEP, in what seems to be a ratings generator.
At no time did Judy Mays require her students to read and/or write erotica, nor did she ever mention that she was a published author of erotica. She hasn’t been accused of any untoward behavior in the classroom, yet her character is being assassinated because of her hobby as an author.
The parents who were interviewed for the ‘story’ come off as narrow-minded, and one goes as far as suggesting that Judy might actually be looking at her 10th grade son with a lascivious eye. I wonder if these parents pull their kids out of class if the teacher becomes pregnant? Heaven forbid little Johnny connects the dots and realizes that Mrs. Jones might partake in some extra-curricular activities of her own at home!
As a high school English teacher, this story only serves to ratchet up my fear that my life and behavior outside of school can be held against me. Beyond that, I fear that my husband’s and family’s lives are also being scrutinized at least by students, and possibly parents and administrators.
While I don’t have a Facebook page, both my husband and sister do. My students excel in ferreting out information and have come to me to say, “Your husband is a fan of so-and-so!” or “Your sister is on vacation in Florida with your parents right now?” After telling my students countless times that they were invading my privacy, I finally had to ask my husband and sister to hide their profiles on FB to thwart my students’ efforts. My husband was annoyed that potential friends wouldn’t be able to reconnect with him but realized that my career and reputation were literally hanging in the balance.
The thought of being villainized like Judy Mays is too terrifying to consider. The woman writes some novels with explicit sex scenes and now her life as an educator is irreparably damaged. One of the parents called for her to pick a career–author or educator–but I say who is the parent to demand such a thing? Why can’t a teacher have a life outside of school–especially when she was so circumspect about it?
Where do you stand on this issue? Should teachers’ private lives have any bearing on their reputations as educators?