Teachers have lives, too.

Tea Mcgilvray, Online editor

In many professions, it is perfectly acceptable for adults to have separate personal and professional lives. However, American culture has unfairly held teachers to higher social standards. Society expects teachers to live unreasonably pure lives solely because they are responsible for children for a small fraction of their day. We place such unrealistic expectations on people because of their career path and fail to understand that they live normal, full lives too.

Recently, Kandice Mason, a teacher in Hoke County North Carolina was suspended from her position at West Hoke County Middle School for teaching a legal pole dancing class on Facebook under a different name. Regardless of their ability to excel at teaching, many teachers still are fired because of their private lives off campus. Bret Bingham, who was teacher of the year in Oregon, was fired for his sexuality a few years ago despite following policy to keep that information private. It begs the question: would a doctor have been suspended for the same offense? Or even a ballet teacher? Both Mason and Bingham were taught to suppress socially accepted ideals in the presence of children; taught that their lives were inappropriate because they work with children.

Such actions contradict the public’s praise of celebrities for being “real” and displaying their personal lives. Yet we shun teachers simply for having other passions, some of which are their only other source of income. Many teachers have to buy their own supplies to continue to do their job properly, and even that can sometimes be a struggle. In reality, a teacher’s salary isn’t all that sustainable for living a healthy and financially stable life. Although there’s a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds in Allen, many of us tend to place ourselves in a middle class bubble where we don’t consider those struggling to make ends meet. If we are not paying them enough, what right do we have to tell teachers what side jobs they can and can’t have so long as they are legal?

Many argue that teachers are the role models for our the next generation of children but that’s not exactly their responsibility; it is their job to teach the given curriculum.. Some even go above and beyond to shape children into better people though it is not in their job description. It is a parent’s job first to be a positive influence on children, and teachers come second to reinforce those ideas.

The unrealistic expectations created for teachers — especially women — have existed since public schools began, and not much progress has been made since. In the late 1800’s, female teachers were not allowed to get married or behave out of conduct without risking being fired. As time progressed, they were allowed out, but they couldn’t wear bright colors or be seen without male company. While there has been some change and progress, there are still standards we seem to hold teachers to that we don’t hold as societal norms for anyone else.

With time, the social acceptance of more “progressive” ideas has increased dramatically. Generally, I have found that millennials are much more accepting of the LGBTQ community and of “taboo” trends like tattoos, or in the case of Kandice Mason, pole dancing. Our society is changing, and the kids that we’re “protecting” from “bad influences” in the teaching community are a part of the same, evolving world and will be exposed to reality sooner or later. Many of them are already exposed to it at home, yet when they’re at school, they are supposed to be sheltered away from society. We have to get past the idea that our teachers must live heteronormative, spotless lives for the sake of their students and allow them to lead judgement-free personal lives. By shielding kids from their teachers’ realities, we just give them unrealistic expectations and force teachers to live in a shell.

We as a society must do better for our teachers and for students. We need to allow teachers freedom in their personal lives so that they can continue to thrive in the classroom, and we need to allow children to see the real world without censorship, so they can better understand who they are and what their purpose is. By censoring teachers’ lives, we give children idealistic ideas of how they should act. While some believe this filter may have a positive impact, we need to reevaluate the standards we set for the censorship of teachers’ lives as society’s values become more and more accepting.