Until now, I thought I had given all of my students an adequate glimpse into my life. I had given pamphlets out to my juniors at the beginning of my teaching this semester, which gives information about me, and I’ve been in the classroom for almost five weeks now. You’d think that they would have a decent idea of who I am and have picked up a few details.
I’m one of several student teachers in my district, some of which are from the same university and others from a few other universities that are a little further away. Many of my students also have other classes with student teachers, such as speech (an elective that juniors and seniors can take) and other upper level courses in other departments.
In my first class of seniors today, I had a student who interrupted the very beginning of class by saying, “Mr. Broaddus, I heard something funny about you and Miss R.*” When pressed on it by myself and my co-op, he simply waved it off, and we moved on, despite my curiosity at what he possibly could have meant. I gathered by the reaction of other students that this “funny” anecdote was familiar to them.
I mostly had forgotten about it until my only on-campus class tonight, which I have with Miss R., and I asked her about it. She (with clear embarrassment) informed me that the seniors have started a rumor that she and I are dating. Why this came about wasn’t immediately clear to me at first; she and I teach in different areas of the buildings, on different floors even, and I see her only on rare occasion at all. The only time we’ve been around each other for any length of time was a point at which I was eating lunch and she had come into the teachers’ lounge to make copies. I said hello because we’ve had a number of classes together and at least know each other well enough to be cordial, but I didn’t see any reason – had a student seen our brief interactions, which seems even more unlikely – that this would give rise to a rumor.
Ultimately, the conclusion I came to was that we were simply easy targets: both student teachers, from the same university, and sharing a fair number of students since we both teach AP courses. If they had to link two student teachers, we were probably the obvious choice since the other male student teacher from our school doesn’t share very many students with Miss R.
Still, I did think it was awfully strange that no one had picked up – and I thought I had said this explicitly at some point! – that I’m married with children. Certainly I would expect someone to have noticed my wedding ring, which would be a dead giveaway.
I do know, however, that I need to address the rumor rather than ignore it. This probably wouldn’t be the case if I weren’t married – Miss R. is a lovely person – because denying the rumor would likely give it more steam, in the sort of “Methinks the lady doth protest too much” way. But as it stands, the rumor posits a relationship that not only is nonexistent but that is in clear opposition to the actual relationship I have with my wife. If other students in the school hear that I’m dating Miss R. but know that I’m married (for instance, my juniors, with whom I have talked about my family), then we have a more serious problem.
This sort of thing is almost more exhausting than a lot of the teaching itself. It’s distracting and bothersome, peripheral enough to aggravate me that I have to deal with it. Moreover, that it goes on without me knowing it – and that my students won’t be honest with me about it and just ask – is doubly frustrating.
Who knows? Maybe this is an opportunity to encourage more openness from the seniors in addition to squelching the rumor. Certainly, this demonstrates that there are always surprises when it comes to teaching, and being able to respond readily to them is one of the best skills a teacher can have.