Being a student teacher has introduced me to one of those institutions of teaching that I had really never experienced, even as an intern: the teachers’ lounge. Before this, my only interactions with teachers were in very small groups, maybe only one or two together at a time. In the teachers’ lounge, this expands greatly, and I’ve found that it is a beast all its own.
For one, being in a school where there are a lot of female teachers (or maybe it’s just our lunch period that has quite a few female teachers in it) has reminded me of how out of place it feels to be around teachers whose small talk is Oprah’s Best Life Ever week. Fortunately, there are three of us (student teachers) that eat lunch together, and we’re all male, so we can stick together somewhat.
But this post isn’t just about the oddness of that environment; it’s even more significantly about another facet of teaching: interacting with other teachers.
On Monday, I had my first teachers’ lounge experience as a student teacher (I had eaten there once during internship last semester), and I was confronted with the varying personalities of the different teachers that share our A lunch (4th period is split for lunch at our school, as it is at many – if not all? – schools). One teacher in particular came in especially exuberant, telling us about her new fact of the day: that Fred Rogers (of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood fame) was a Navy Seal with 25 kills under his belt and had to wear long-sleeved shirts on the show because his arms were covered with tattoos. No one questioned this fact, but I was immediately skeptical. In fact, I was more than skeptical: I was fairly certain that this claim was patently false. I came home that day and confirmed this by checking that favorite of urban legend sites (of which I am on the mailing list), snopes.com.
I was faced with a dilemma: I wanted to tell this teacher that she was disseminating an untruth (she didn’t even divulge her source), but I didn’t feel it was my place to say anything since I don’t know her well and it might be construed in a bad way, as though I was trying to be condescending. I might have even been content to leave it alone but for the fact that she even made it clear that she was telling her students about this myth. Now she was not just disseminating a myth as though it were factual – she was lending credence to it by telling her students, who trust her to know what is true!
I simmered on this for a few days until Friday. My cooperating teacher and I were discussing plans and an upcoming event that we’re incorporating into instruction, and, by utter coincidence, the topic of urban legends came up. I had to spill, so I said, “Remember on Monday when Mister Rogers came up in the teachers’ lounge?” To my delight (and relief), my co-op replied, “Yeah, I knew that was false.” We discussed what to do in such a case, and she took the stance that it might make interactions difficult if not done the right way. We both agreed that it wasn’t my place, and I mentioned that I had even been tempted to print off the snopes page and leave it in the teachers’ lounge before school (which was entirely true). My co-op was able to handle it: she teaches a section of sociology each semester and teaches urban legends as a part of the course, and she could approach the teacher using that as a “cover” of sorts so that she wouldn’t continue to tell her students that the myth was true.
That solved this dilemma for me, but I’m still conflicted about what to do as, say, a first-year teacher. What do you think? Comment or vote in the poll below.