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

  1. Most teachers have lives outside of school.
  2. It is safe to assume that teachers, especially those with children, have had sex, or at least have heard about sex.
  3. Teachers can enjoy diverting hobbies in their spare time.
  4. 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?


  • At 2011.04.28 07:35, bermudaonion (Kathy) said:

    I saw this yesterday and thought it was absolutely ridiculous. I couldn’t figure out how the two things were related. When my son was in high school, a fantastic choir teacher ended up resigning because parents made a huge stink about him posting a profile on a gay dating site. I was appalled and figured it was because we lived in the buckle of the Bible belt.

    • At 2011.04.28 07:54, rhapsodyinbooks said:

      Wow, that’s just awful. Some parents are just crazy, and really, could their own lives withstand such scrutiny?
      rhapsodyinbooks´s last blog post ..Review of “XVI” by Julia Karr

      • At 2011.04.28 08:18, Chrisbookarama said:

        Imagine, she might have sex too! The horror! That story is crazy.

        I remember a visit to a museum and reading an advertisement for a teacher back in the early 1900s. She was required to be unmarried, in her home after dark, and not to be seen in public with a man not related to her. I laughed at it, thinking how ridiculous it was. Now I see it wasn’t that far off from things now.
        Chrisbookarama´s last blog post ..Princess Academy by Shannon Hale- Review

        • At 2011.04.28 09:24, Julie @ Read Handed said:

          Ridiculous. As long as she’s not writing during work hours, there should be no problem. How sad that she tried so hard to separate her hobby from her job (i.e. using a pen name) and still is getting such backlash. Teachers should be judged by what they’re doing in the classroom. And if she’s a good teacher who doesn’t let her outside life influence her professional life, that should be the end of the story. My sister had a teacher in high school who, instead of teaching, told the students all about her weekend parties and trysts. Why don’t we spend more time going after teachers like that and leave the innocent ones alone?
          Julie @ Read Handed´s last blog post ..School of Hard Knocks Lite

          • At 2011.04.28 10:37, Ti said:

            It only takes one raving parent, to get everyone all stirred up.

            If she were writing during work hours or discussing story lines with the students, then yeah, I can see where there might be a problem. But teachers ARE people and hey do have lives and I actually prefer a teacher who shares some of his/her personal life with the students.

            My son talks about his musician history teacher all the time and we’ve gone to his gigs. It makes him totally approachable in the eyes of my son. The same can be said for his english teacher who loves Adam Levine. It gives her that “realness” and makes the learning experience much more interesting when they can use real life examples of things.

            I can see why you don’t have a FB page though. Even I forget sometimes who is looking at my profile. I’ll say something and then one of my son’s friends will comment on it and it’s always a bit of an eye opener.
            Ti´s last blog post ..Review- The Uncoupling

            • At 2011.04.28 14:51, Dishy said:

              Three words that sum up allegations by offended parents in this case?

              Ridiculous. Infantile. Unfounded.

              It would be one thing if the teacher was even mildly inappropriate with students, but that’s not the case. She has a pen name for a reason. She writes to please herself and others. The only problem here is that her writing is sexual in nature. I don’t read nor do I enjoy erotica, but many people do. So what. WE’RE ALL ADULTS. If I found out my child’s teacher worked as a clown in her free time, did pole dancing, or even YES, ENJOYED SEX, it’s not my place to judge. As long as he or she is doing his/her job well and educating my child in a thoughtful, appropriate manner, I don’t care.

              Nat, you are totally right for being concerned. WHY? B/c often it’s the students (or in this case media) who fail to understand the concepts of freedom and privacy.
              Dishy´s last blog post ..Karen’s Apple Kugel Revisited

              • At 2011.04.28 16:06, Kari said:

                I’m interested to hear the follow up to this story. Parents seem to so easily get riled up on witch hunts like this that it’s near impossible for the accused to present their perspective to a reasonable, thoughtful audience. Are there any groups publicly defending the teacher? Colleagues, school authorities, other teachers, authors, or random groups?
                Kari´s last blog post ..Demetri Martins Brevity and Wit

                • At 2011.04.28 18:29, SpilledInkGuy said:

                  Wowza –
                  I can’t even imagine what it must be like to be scrutinized like that…
                  very unfortunate.
                  SpilledInkGuy´s last blog post ..Weekly Photo Challenge- One

                  • At 2011.04.28 20:51, Kim (Sophisticated Dorkiness) said:

                    Ugh, this story is so annoying. I’m sure if she were the author of any other genre, students and parents would be excited to have her teaching. It’s very disappointing.

                    I starting locking down my Facebook page after I went on the job search, but even so, there’s so much stuff out on the Internet it’s hard to hide.
                    Kim (Sophisticated Dorkiness)´s last blog post ..Review- ‘I’m Sorry You Feel That Way’ by Diana Joseph

                    • At 2011.04.29 00:06, softdrink said:

                      I saw this story earlier today and was appalled (at the story, not the teacher!). I can’t believe that the public thinks that teachers’ lives need to be scrutinized.

                      When I was first substitute teaching I was still working as a waitress. And because the restaurant had a bar downstairs, if a student came into the restaurant with their family, they then thought it was funny to say they saw me in a bar.

                      Then there was the time a student saw me driving around town in my little Honda CVCC, which he insisted was a Pinto. I’ll never forget the time he screamed across the school parking lot, “See…you DO drive a Pinto!”

                      It’s like teachers are fair game…they’re expected to be these paragons of virtue, and people don’t consider their feelings or the impact it has when they discover their “secrets.”
                      softdrink´s last blog post ..Finding George Orwell in Burma

                      • At 2011.04.29 00:56, Jess - A Book Hoarder said:

                        It is so frustrating that with all the things going on with education people are focusing on something like this. How about we appreciate the people who take such low paying, under appreciated jobs.

                        My best friend is a teacher and dealing with most likely getting a pink slip yet again this year because of funding. Every year she has to hope that there is a job for her. I know the situation isn’t as bad in other states as it is here in CA but should we really be searching for absurd reasons to get rid of the people who are dedicated enough to deal with this. Heaven forbid they have lives or worse…sex!
                        Jess – A Book Hoarder´s last blog post ..Dark Water – Laura McNeal

                        • At 2011.04.29 22:32, Gwen said:

                          I don’t know what to say other than I hate, hate, hate that teachers are expected to not exist when not in class. These witch hunts hurt good people, ruin careers, and make parents look like narrow-minded idiots.
                          Gwen´s last blog post ..Review The Moses Expedition by Juan Gomez-Jurado

                          • At 2011.05.06 20:10, that girl said:

                            The “other life” of the teacher is one that can be struggle. I find it makes me somewhat paranoid, not that I’m doing anything to cause judgment, but I try very hard to protect my private life, including using my maiden name at work.

                            At the same time, I try to be open with my students. I always tell my students I do not live here (in the building where I teach) and I do have a life. They will see me at Target in shorts and a t-shirt. They will see me tailgating before football games. They will see me perform shows around town with my band. I tell them they are expected to say hello, not point at and stalk me.

                            It’s a little easier with college kids. I can’t imagine the level of scrutiny for a high school teacher.

                            (Required, will not be published)

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