About Eric Rosenbaum: Eric Rosenbaum is a blogger and is currently pursuing his M.A. in Humanities at University of Chicago.
Last weekend, I went to a Halloween party for teachers. My girlfriend, a middle school teacher for Chicago Public Schools, was my ticket inside that chamber of secrets. While at the party, I couldn’t help imagining how my younger self would react to being surrounded by costumed teachers. Throughout middle school and high school, I was very interested in how my teachers saw me, or how teachers saw students in general.
Yes, I was excessively nerdy in middle school. But I’m willing to bet I wasn’t the only person who has wondered how teachers speak about them behind their backs.
There was a particular policy at my school which made my desire to know the inner minds of teachers that much stronger. Once a month, all teachers gathered in one classroom to discuss students’ progress. I never learned exactly how those meetings functioned. In my head, I imagined the teachers deconstructing each student individually, meticulously uncovering and sharing each of their faults. Every time they met, I wondered if they had a picture of me on a bulletin board, my transcript projected on a screen.
It’s not that, at that age, I idolized my teachers or put undue emphasis on their estimations of me. More than anything, it was the mystery of those closed-door meetings that I found intriguing.
So I found myself at this party, surrounded by teachers in costumes. There was a Joker, a Dr. Who, and a Binder Full of Women. There was a guy dressed as Avril Lavigne with his girlfriend who was dressed as Skaterboy. One person came in street clothes, but wore a chicken hat. Another person came as a chef, carrying a loaf of sourdough bread which was eventually eaten by the other guests.
Some conversations circled around school. At least at the beginning of the night, when I was just trying to get to know people and the only tool in my conversational arsenal was, “So you’re a teacher?” But for the most part, nobody was interested in talking about work. And when work problems did come up, they were almost always about administrators or other teachers. Students were universally loved, but they were not the main topic of conversation.
This is a lesson I’ve had to learn repeatedly in my life after college: the people who ran the world were never as interested in me as I thought they were. Of course, teachers do care tremendously about their students, and they spend many hours a day, before, during, and after school, trying to help them. But they are far less critical than I imagined when I was younger. Those closed-door meetings which, in my imagination, were so reminiscent of a scene from The Wire, were probably nothing more than simple planning sessions in which a few persistent problems met practical solutions.
Maybe nobody reading this blog ever had trouble convincing themselves, like I did, that their mistakes were not remembered and recorded by their teachers. And I hope everybody realizes that their teachers are human beings with personal lives outside of work. But if anybody out there has similar worries as I did, take it from someone who has been there—teachers have Halloween parties too.