Some students and trainee teachers become sensitive to how their private life may be perceived once they start training to be teachers.
They talk of how, on teaching practices, they are careful about how much they drink in pubs and clubs and even where they socialise.
But recently one trainee stood out.
He went on… “and if I want to go to pubs and clubs and even get drunk if I choose to, that’s my business. As long as I can go in to school every day and be a good teacher, I don’t see why I should be answerable to what goes on 24/7 in my private life.”
I could see other students where pondering this when he continued, in a rather interesting and challenging way…
“come to think of it…” he said, “if I wanted to smoke a bit of dope in the privacy of my own home… I don’t see why that’s anyone else’s business. I’m not harming anyone… nobody even knows about it… I’m not selling drugs or taking them in to school… it’s done in private… I’m just relaxing doing something in my own home, so I don’t see what that has to do with anyone else.”
“Of course it does!” responded another.
“Idiot… as if you didn’t know… smoking dope is illegal..!”
“Yeh, but it’s not a serious crime is it?”
“It’s still illegal.”
“Well I’m so sorry I’m not a saint… like you presumably…! Are you saying you’ve never done anything wrong? Have you never… let’s say… driven down a motorway at 80 or 90 mph…? never jumped an amber light…? never parked on a double yellow line…? never paid a car mechanic or a builder in cash to avoid the VAT…?
His ‘killer’ blow, I thought, came when he saw the blushes on the faces of his fellow students…
“Yeh… you see…! At least if I smoke a bit of dope in the privacy of my own home I’m only harming myself… and the worst you can say about me is that I’m a hypocrit if I go into school and tell the kids it’s wrong. Whereas you… driving down a motorway at 80 or 90 mph… or jumping a ‘stop’ light… you’re putting other people’s lives at risk.”
He raises an interesting challenge doesn’t he? None of us are saints.
So if you are good teacher, shouldn’t your private life be your own affair?
Alan Newland worked as a teacher, teacher-trainer and headteacher in London for over 20 years and then for the DfE and the GTC. He now lectures on teaching and runs the award-winning social media network newteacherstalk. You can follow him on Twitter at @newteacherstalk. His new book “Working in Teaching” (Crimson Publishing) is published in February 2014.