Interacting with Students (and Their Families) Outside of School

As a new teacher you are likely preparing for how you will act in front of your students and their families while at school. Obviously you should dress well, watch your language, and do just about anything to set a good example.

But in every teacher’s life comes the unexpected: running into your students and their parents outside of school. Maybe it’s at a coffee shop, or at the grocery store. And (gasp!) is that an alcoholic beverage in your cart?

In this article we will discuss how new teachers can keep their cool in these unexpected situations.

A Small Note About Social Media

It’s no crime for you to use Facebook, Twitter, etc. to interact with friends and loved ones. However, you need to be extremely careful about the content you put on these sites, even if your account is protected. If you want to use social media with students (such as for reminders about homework, school events), create an account just for that purpose.

Meeting Students and Their Families in the Real World

Now that we have the social media stuff out of the way, let us discuss encountering students and their families in the ‘wild.’ One memory that springs to mind is encountering two students at a coffee shop. It was winter break, and I was spending time with my dad. Now, these students weren’t my best students – quite the opposite, actually. However, I took the time to greet them and introduce to my dad. I asked them how their break was going, and we all chatted for a minute.

No matter which student you bump into, the key in this situation is to treat students no different than you would in the classroom. Take a moment for them like you would with anyone else you might recognize in a public setting…and then move on. It’s that simple. The exact same goes with parents.

NOTE ABOUT PARENTS: If a parent should ask about their child’s academic performance or behavior in a public setting, just let them know due to privacy concerns, it would be best to discuss matters over email, phone, or a meeting at school. It’s always good to smile in these situations; it will reassure parents that your silence is not because something is wrong with their child.

In addition to the casual run in, there is the chance that a student or parent will see you smoking outside or consuming alcohol at a restaurant (or buying it at a grocery store). First of all, as long as you’re being responsible, you shouldn’t feel ashamed about doing either. Even so, you might feel a tinge of panic or embarrassment that a student or one of their family members ‘caught’ you doing something many adults do.

Parents, generally, won’t give you any grief for doing either. Students, however, may have a snarky comment or two up their sleeves. The best advice is to brush it off. The point is to not act embarrassed. If you do not take offense, students cannot make anything of it.

Final Thoughts

Being a teacher is like being a very minor celebrity. People will recognize you from time to time, and in some of those situations you will wish you had not been noticed. As long as you treat students and their families with the same professionalism as you do while at school, there is absolutely nothing to fear.

Thomas Broderick is a freelance writer and consultant in the education field. He lives in Northern California. You can learn more about Thomas on his website.

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