Can teachers have lives outside of school?

A Gwinnett County teacher was named Miss Georgia Saturday, but Kristina Higgins turned down the honor the next day, saying she was worried about balancing her duties.

“Due to my current job responsibilities as a middle school teacher and the responsibilities and time commitment as Miss Georgia, I have decided to not fulfill the duties of Miss Georgia 2009,” Higgins said in a statement released by the Miss Georgia Scholarship Pageant.

The runner-up, Emily Cook from Cobb County, received the title and will represent the state at the Miss American competition in January.

I can only imagine how hard it would be to represent the state and still work as a full-time teacher.

But this story got me thinking of what things teachers can’t do. Either because they don’t have the time or they’re worried about how outside activities would reflect on their work. For example, I know teachers who would like to bartend to make extra money but worry about what would happen if parents saw them.

What double standards are teachers held to that other professionals are not? What jobs or activities do most teachers avoid?

33 comments Add your comment

Martina

June 29th, 2009
1:17 pm

I refuse to have a facebook page because I’ve had friends receive requests from parents and students (or even other teachers) and I just don’t want to deal with the hassle of ignoring or turning them down. Even though I wouldn’t have anything damaging on it, I just wouldn’t want that kind of access to my personal life. I’ve always found it funny that the Georgia Teacher of the Year has to give up teaching for that year in order to travel and give speeches. Let’s pick the “best” teacher in the state, and then take them OUT of the classroom!

You sell your services, not your life

June 29th, 2009
1:24 pm

What a teacher does on their own private time, as long as it is legal, is their business.

Period.

Seen it all

June 29th, 2009
1:57 pm

Well, for one thing, I am not that Internet savvy to have a Facebook page. Last year one of my students asked me if I had a Facebook page. I didn’t know what he was talking about. I had to Google it. Now they are talking about Twitter. I had to look that up, too. I don’t “text”. I don’t “IM”. I barely do e-mail.

Although I ove my job, when I am off work, I am off work. I want nothing to do with school, students, or even children. I don’t want to see anything related to school. I don’t want to see any of my students at the mall (it has happened several times). Don’t really want to see any parents either.

Being a teacher does affect your life outside of school. Teachers really don’t get tattoos or be a bartender on weekends. I guess it has to do with image and perception. People don’t really see us as regular human beings. I guess we are like rock stars or celebrities.

Martina

June 29th, 2009
2:12 pm

The following was taken from an article about teachers being fired in Charlotte, NC:

Last week a CMS official sent a memo to the district’s 19,000-plus employees warning them that postings on social networking sites can cost them their jobs, even if those pages are meant to be private.
CMS Chief Operating Officer Hugh Hattabaugh wrote that even if such postings are done on personal time and intended for limited viewing, they can diminish an employee’s professional reputation and the respect of colleagues, parents and students.
Sites such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and Match.com “provide the public with varying levels of access into the private lives of CMS employees,” he said. “Therefore, please understand that postings made to these Web sites may become part of the public domain in the same manner as a newspaper ad or a magazine article.”

I do agree with “sell your services” but unfortunately it’s happening to teachers all across the country. Google “teacher fired for facebook” and you get over 1,350,000 hits.

Reality2

June 29th, 2009
2:19 pm

This seems to be simply a matter of how many “full time” jobs a person can hold without influencing negatively her/his performance in any of them. This particular teacher seems to have decided that she would rather focus on being a teacher instead of trying to do both, and we should respect her for her decision.

As for teachers’ private lives, I think it’s not unlike what police officers might do outside of their duties. There are certain things they should never do just because what their profession is – if any teacher don’t like that restriction, well, then they should consider stop being a teacher.

Classroom Teacher

June 29th, 2009
4:00 pm

Yes please “google teacher fired for facebook.” All of the cases brought up was for posting CLEARLY INAPPROPRIATE material. If a teacher is either too stupid or naive to know what they can or cannot post then they really don’t need to be trusted with a class full of kids do they?

gwinnettian

June 29th, 2009
4:15 pm

Seen it All – There might have been a time when teachers didn’t get tattoos but not anymore. At the school I work in many of the teachers have multiple visable tattoos. They used to have to cover them up but apparently that rule has been relaxed.

You sell your life, not your services

June 29th, 2009
5:20 pm

Reality2, please explain to us why a person should give up their civil liberties just because they choose to be a teacher. Why should a person be relegated to second class citizenship status just because they chose to be a teacher?

HS Teacher, Too

June 29th, 2009
6:02 pm

“What a teacher does on their own private time, as long as it is legal, is their business.

“Period.”

Unfortunately, according to the Professional Standards Commission, teachers are bound to live to social/moral standards that you might argue are “higher” than just being employees. Is it fair? Heck No!! But it’s a fact.

It’s a helluva lot worse down here, though, than when I taught in the Northeast, largely because it is so much more conservative down here. Up there, if a teacher wants to bartend (or really do most anything else) as long as it doesn’t negatively affect the teacher’s primary job contract — teaching — then the general attitude seems to be “live and let live.”

In any event, the PSC and the local school contracts both contain what amounts to the military catch-all of “conduct unbecoming …” That is to say, if they can’t get you for breaking a rule, they can get you because you’re not projecting the image they prefer. And civil rights really don’t matter if you signed a contract agreeing to be bound by their rules …

Let's make teaching even less appealing

June 29th, 2009
6:42 pm

What compelling right does the state have to limit someone’s rights? If the state can’t find a compelling, very compelling reason, the state should have no business limiting the rights.

Mom and Dad need to be the moral arbiters of the child; not the state or its representatives.

Reality

June 29th, 2009
6:44 pm

This attitude is part of the past puritanical background of the US. We need to move on. Teaching, like any other profession, is a job. When one “clocks out” then that is a regular citizen and not a ‘teacher’ and should be treated like every one else.

No one should judge someone whose day time job is teaching and wants to be a bartender, a waiter, or whatever at nights and weekends.

So many in the US, especially the Bible belt, want to quickly judge other peope – GET OVER IT!

reality 2

June 29th, 2009
6:46 pm

There is no reason to be “compelling.” It just has to be spelled out, and people have to choose to take it or leave it. Since when a specific job is a civil right? I want to be a major league baseball player so I can get paid millions of dollars. Is that my civil right? Of course not. Are we, non-major league baseball players, second class citizens because we can’t be one? Of course not.

Let's make teaching even less appealing

June 29th, 2009
6:59 pm

Being a teacher isn’t a civil right. But being a teacher, shouldn’t mean one has to trade away a civil right in order to do so. Are we going to ban atheists from being teachers, because the majority of people believe in a god, and thus being an atheist is offensive to them?

Where do we stop?

reality 2

June 29th, 2009
9:20 pm

This “civil right” argument is just pure silly. I don’t know how this argument about being an atheist has anything to do with a teacher not allowing to be a bartender.

I think we can make a good case that being a public school teacher is a public servant – just as any tax-payer supported occupation.

Let's make teaching even less appealing

June 29th, 2009
9:36 pm

Anytime the government doesn’t have a compelling right to limit the rights of its citizens, it shouldn’t. Unless there is a clear conflict of interest, we should err on the side of making sure our public citizens have the same rights and opportunities that any other citizen has.

Lee

June 29th, 2009
11:16 pm

It’s a matter of trust. As a parent, if I can’t trust my child’s teacher to exhibit good judgment, ethics, and moral character, do I really want my child to be in the same room with that person for 7-8 hours per day?

I think not.

The same argument could be made for members of the clergy. What they do on their own time should be none of the church’s business right? But do you want your preacher whoring around on Saturday night and preaching salvation on Sunday? I think not.

Let’s face it, certain jobs have certain standards to maintain, both on and off the job.

Let's make teaching even less appealing

June 30th, 2009
12:21 am

Lee,

If someone doesn’t want the preacher whoring around on Saturday, then preaching on Sunday, that’s not the government limiting the preacher, that his parishoners; in other words, that’s the free market limiting him.

Absent a compelling reason, the government has no business limiting the rights of citizens.

jim d

June 30th, 2009
4:56 am

ah yes–yet another reason in support of schools of choice. A free market in education appears to hold yet another solution.

Lee

June 30th, 2009
7:14 am

Appealing: I see your point about the government intrusion, and it is a valid point. But, the government in this case is the employer. In addition, there is the other side of the equation, and that is the wishes of the parents of the children.

The bottom line is this, there are certain professions in which the public expects certain behavior. Teachers, policemen, and preachers come to mind, just to name a few.

Now then, do I think some of these cases where people have gotten fired over a facebook picture are extreme? Yes, I do.

William Casey

June 30th, 2009
7:56 am

The bitter truth: school officials believe that teachers are slaves. Five years ago, Fulton County’s Republican “Sarah Palin wannabe,” Katie Reeves, tried to interfere with my classroom teaching because she didn’t believe it supported “W.” Thanks to my AP students (including many Republicans) and my principal at Northview, Peter Zervakos, Reeves’ witch hunt got nowhere. My lesson was “fair and balanced.” Teachers DO NOT give up their civil rights or opinions just by becoming teachers!

highly qualified teacher

June 30th, 2009
9:26 am

I agree with Reality 2. We, as teachers, are public servants – getting paid by tax payers to provide public services, just as police, firefighters, judges, etc. are. I have no problem if I am not allowed to do certain things outside of school buildings. We are held to a higher standards, and that’s ok with me.

I would be more concerned if they want to control how I teach (not really what to teach).

Joy in Teaching

June 30th, 2009
10:23 am

I personally don’t think that the world cares what teachers do outside of the classroom as long as they are discreet and don’t publish it on the internet for the entire world to look at. Let’s face it: some people are just dumb when it comes to putting things on line.

AP Teacher

June 30th, 2009
12:12 pm

I teach in a high school. I have a Facebook page and a tattoo. But, I’m not stupid! I don’t have students as my “friends” on Facebook. My friends are my peers or students who have already graduated from high school. There is nothing inappropriate on my page anyway. And as far as my tattoo – nobody even sees it unless they happen to see me our during the summertime with a tank top on!

I see students and parents all the time, since I teach in the same neighborhood in which I live. I don’t have a problem with that until a parent wants to have an impromptu parent conference in Aisle 4 in Publix! If you don’t do anything stupid – you have nothing to worry about.

Tony

June 30th, 2009
12:19 pm

Lee made an excellent point about trust. Teachers are limited in what they do outside of the classroom if it interferes with the trust parents have for the person teaching their children. While it may be a person’s right to be a stripper in a club on the weekend, that does not mean the school system has to allow a teacher to do that.

In small towns this idea is even more important. Something as simple as going out on a date or having a drink with dinner can become an issue. I have met with parents and strongly defended the teachers’ right to do so. It is also that parent’s right to pull the child from school in order to avoid having their child in that teacher’s class.

It is not alright for teachers to act in a manner that violates the trust of the community. There are many things people may think they have a right to do, but those rights must be balanced with the responsibilities that accompany the role of teacher.

catlady

June 30th, 2009
5:43 pm

When I started teaching in this small rural town, the superintendent told me the rules for teachers outside the classroom, which included not wearing shorts or curlers when out in town. Also, no “flashy” living, which meant above the poverty line (luckily, for teachers back then, it was quite easy).

Concerned Teacher

June 30th, 2009
5:43 pm

Going out on a date and/or having a drink breaks the trust a parent has in a teacher? That’s absurd!!! I wish that parent did have the right to pull his/her child out of my school (which he doesn’t by the way unless the child is going to private school) because I don’t want to have to watch my every move and live in fear of stepping on someone’s all too judgmental toes

Let's make teaching even less appealing

June 30th, 2009
7:25 pm

“It is not alright for teachers to act in a manner that violates the trust of the community.”

So Tony does that mean if a public school teacher teaches in a small, overwhelming Christian community, that believes the only way to salvation is to accept Jesus, that an atheist would have to remain closeted, because being an atheist would violate the trust of the community?

Do we really want to go there?

high school teacher

June 30th, 2009
8:11 pm

I have not been in the “real world,” but I imagine that if a employee at a Fortune 500 company was in the news for getting blitzed and crashing his car into a median on the highway, that his job might be in jeopardy as well; does any employer want someone who exercises poor judgment?

That said, whether we like it or not, perception is reality. I am conscious of the fact that I represent my school 24/7. I see teaching as a lifestyle instead of a job. If, however, I strongly disagreed with a code of ethics of a system or the values of a community, I would choose not to work there.

hall monitor

June 30th, 2009
9:24 pm

This story made http://detentionslip.org ! Check it out for all the wild teacher headlines.

Joy in Teaching

July 1st, 2009
8:01 am

When I first started teaching 21 years ago, I was told that if I wanted to buy beer, then I needed to make sure I did it at least 2 counties over as the county that I was then teaching and living in was a dry county with a very strong Baptist church community. It was a wise choice. I also figured out to go grocery shopping 2 counties over as I didn’t really want my students, their parents, or the school board to see the tampons in my grocery cart. I taught in that county for 13 years and finally left when I had one too many parent teacher conferences at the county land fill. (One parent actually complained to my principal about my recycling habits.)

I found that I am a much happier person and teacher when I don’t teach in my own community. Its much more relaxing to have some semblance of normal life without being under the microscope of parents.

Yeah, it sucks…but what can you do other than to stop teaching?

catlady

July 1st, 2009
8:25 am

Hey, Joy, that’s funny about the recycling! I have had discussions with parents in almost every place you can think of (even at the dump), but haven’t been (to my knowledge) the subject of complaints about it. I actually go out of my way to meet and talk to my parents around town. For too many, that short conversation in WalMart is the only one I will get!

I don’t drink or smoke, but I have on occasion been concerned about some of the supplies I might have in my cart. I remember 24 years ago being riddled with indecision about getting an ept!

After 37 years I think I am a good bit more relaxed about most of this stuff, as I have a reputation (good or bad) for being very parent-friendly.

catlady

July 1st, 2009
8:29 am

One more thing: Upon moving here it was made clear to me that you either grow a garden, or you risk a reputation of beeing snooty or on welfare! All these years later, I still have a garden!

Jackie O'Day

May 20th, 2010
2:41 pm

How are teachers and preachers and police in the same category????? We all do VERY different things. We can’t just teach? We have to save souls and enforce the law? Wow, no wonder we are so tired.