Teacher Sighting Etiquette

Taylor O'Connor, Editor

You’re in the bread aisle at the grocery store staring off into space while your mom is deciding which type of bread she thinks is best for her. You normally don’t go with her, but for some odd reason here you are, shopping for taco shells and yogurt.  As you wheel the cart around, someone familiar catches your eye. You stare trying to figure out how you know them and realize… That person is your teacher! You pretend not to notice them, but they’ve already made eye contact with you. You awkwardly stared for a little longer than necessary.  You start panicking, wondering what you should say. You decide on a polite hello, which then turns to small talk (which no one likes) and the discomfort grows until you can’t bare it any longer. Finally, you have a chance to end the conversation, turn around and give a quick, “See you Monday!” and walk away quickly.

Now don’t think teachers are any more comfortable than you with this situation. This is just as awkward for them as it is for you. “ I tend to dress weirdly outside of school and I’m very paranoid when walking or longboarding in Columbia Heights, I’m going to end up being filmed by students.” said Spanish teacher Ms. Fahlstrom.

“I don’t have any story where it has been awkward for me. I’ve seen awkward reactions on the faces of students, but I genuinely don’t find it odd to see a human outside of school doing human things and I don’t assume students do student things and then die” said Social Studies teacher Mr. Trovato. “On a scale of one to ten, one of my encounters with a student was around a nine, and all I said was ‘hello’.

It depends on how you approach the situation. If you make eye contact with them, there’s no going back. You both have acknowledged each other’s presence and feel obliged to now go and say hello. At least in grocery stores you have the ability to, calmly and collectedly, walk swiftly away from whichever aisle you are both in. What about in restaurants? When you are stuck in your chair waiting for them to walk away thinking please don’t see me please don’t see me— of course your teacher sees you sitting down. You can’t walk away, you have someone sitting across from you and trying to slip into the bathroom is now impossible. It’s too late to escape.

Here’s a list of do’s and don’ts for Teacher Encounters:

  • Do not spit on them
  • Do not say, “Mom, this is the man/woman who is responsible for me being waitlisted at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. We hate them.”
  • Don’t moonwalk past them while maintaining threatening eye contact. 
  • Do not breathe heavily and whisper their first names
  • Say hello in a calm voice so as not to frighten them
  • Don’t hover around them and stare. If you see them, say hello.
  • Ask them personal questions
    • EX: How many children do you have? What are their names? Where do they go to school? What time are they usually at that school every day?
  • Give them a meaningful compliment, like “You are a strong person, emotionally”
  • Don’t judge them for getting Chipotle alone at 8 pm on a Tuesday.
  • If you’re in a group, don’t surround them and make them uncomfortable
  • Follow them around the store and push their shopping cart. Every time they put something in the cart, nod and say, “Excellent choice.”
  • Offer them a mint, but not in a way that implies they smell bad
  • Squat down next to their kids and talk to them
  • Yell “SEÑORA WIEMILLER NOS AMA”, even if the teacher you see isn’t Señora.
  • Don’t follow them home unless you’ve been invited
  • Don’t put them on your snap story
  • Say “see you on Monday” and walk away. Don’t continue the conversation afterwards.