When I was young, I was shocked when I first saw my fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Garrity, at my church. The Mendenhall family went to Sunday school every Sunday, but went next door to Isaly’s afterwards instead of going to church. The Mendenhall kids were “too much to deal with.” And that would have been true. So, we would head upstairs for Easter and Christmas service only and call it a day.
Well, I never paid much attention to people who sat in the pews. I was a kid…with a pencil and small notepad. I wrote notes or doodled. I was mainly a doodler. My sister liked to take off her shoes and show me the hole in her socks. I think she wore the same damn pair of white anklets to church every Sunday. She never took her shoes off during Sunday school class, only when we had to sit during the long long service upstairs.
So, imagine my surprise when I saw Mrs. Garrity sitting one row ahead of me, diagonally across the pew. Damn, what the hell is she doing in my church? She’s a teacher. It was Easter Sunday, so I figured she was able to leave the school to attend church.
That same year I saw Mrs. Tucci, the sixth grade teacher, trying on shoes at Marlinn’s shoe store. I stared at her for the longest time when we came in to buy a brand new pair of penny loafers. I hid from her, which is hard to do in a small store. I was shocked. She never wore slacks, but there she sat, with her foot up in the air, letting some stranger put a shoe on her foot. How weird.
The reason I even remembered this is because I saw a third grader at Walmart the other day. She is in the classroom across the hall from me and I see her every day. But, she was with a sibling and they were at the top of the aisle staring at me. I heard, “There’s Miss Mendenhall.” I didn’t turn around immediately, but when I did, they took off. I had to laugh. It was the “Dear God, a teacher has been let out of the school” syndrome. Because, as everyone knows, teachers live at the school.
I wonder why kids look at teachers with surprise if they see them out anywhere. And their behavior is peculiar. They can’t be themselves. It is always a strain to talk to kids that I see out and about. They stare at what I am wearing. You know they are going to go home and tell their friends that they saw me and I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt and Dear God, my hair was back in a ponytail. I wish they would pay that much attention to detail in the classroom.
I had a cold last week and took a Kleenex out and blew my nose. Apparently, teachers don’t do that in front of the students. “Are you ok?’ one asked. Um, yes, I just have a cold, but thank you for asking. They continued to stare at me. One girl pointed at my Coke and asked, “Do you go through Hardees every morning?” Um, yes I do.
“But, it isn’t near the school.”
“I live near Hardees.”
“You dooooo?” What? They couldn’t understand.
And that’s because teachers live at the school.