I should confess: the following cartoon is not literally true.
But it captures a metaphorical truth, which is that becoming a teacher has estranged me from my friends.
I don’t mean in the present. We still drink milkshakes together, trade gifs, etc. I mean a kind of retroactive estrangement, an expulsion from our shared past. For my non-teacher friends, school is a place visited only in memory; you empathize with the kid you were, and regard the teacher as a distant authority (even if your age now exceeds theirs then).
But for teachers, school is a place visited daily. Our perspective shifts. I now identify less with my past self than with my own teacherly antagonists.
Remember when the teacher took two months to pass back that paper? Well, he was probably drowning in grading—I don’t blame him.
Remember how she never noticed us passing notes? Yeah, that was so stupid of us; we should have paid better attention.
Remember when the teacher snapped at us even though everyone was talking? You see, the thing about enforcing rules is that it’s impossible to be perfectly evenhanded…
I wish someone had warned me that becoming a teacher rewrites your past. Today, when I look back at my student experiences, I find my empathy turned inside out. Retrained by years behind the big desk, my first instinct is to identify not with myself, but with my onetime opposition, the teacher.
Only with effort can I flip the switch, and see through my student eyes again.