Teachers should be role models and set a good example for their students while in the classroom.
But what about when they’re off the clock?
Such was the predicament that befell Redditor PhysicalLoss7706 – a 27-year-old kindergarten teacher who found herself in a confrontation with a parent.
The educator took to the “Am I the A**hole” (AITA) subReddit and asked:
“AITA for cussing and getting drunk in front of my kindergarten students?”
The Original Poster (OP) explained details from the incident that took place outside of her school.
“I’m a kindergarten teacher. I teach in person classes that are socially distanced, as well as online classes.”
“Last weekend was my birthday. I went to a restaurant with a couple friends for outdoor dining. While we were there, two moms come in with their children and are seated behind me.”
“I recognize them as students in my in-person class. They say hi to me, and I say hi back, but then don’t interact further.”
“Through dinner, I’m just enjoying my time with my friends. I have a few glasses of wine and get a little tipsy (not rowdy or obnoxious or anything). I’m conversing normally with my friends, occasionally using cuss words like ‘f’k’ or ‘sh*t’ or ‘damn'”
“Not excessively, just the way some people would in every day conversation. Maybe a little more than I would have if I were not tipsy, but again, I’m not speaking loudly or anything. Just having normal conversations with my friends.”
“One of the moms then comes over to me and reminds me that my students were there, and that I shouldn’t be drinking and cursing in front of them. Since I’m their teacher, it was my job to set a good example to them.”
“I just told her I was off the clock and that if it was bothering her, she could move or stop listening to me. She got all huffy, and they soon left.”
But that was not the last time the two women saw each other.
“Earlier this week, I was called down by the principal who was with that mom in his office. She was angry and complained that I was setting a bad example for my students. And now her daughter was using some of the same words I was using, saying that if her teacher can say it, so can she.”
“He asked for my side of the story, and I just explained exactly what happened. Given that she verified my story, he told her that I was not their teacher at the time, and since I wasn’t doing anything wrong, they coudln’t control my behavior off the clock.”
“She protested a bit, but eventually left, but called me a terrible teacher. I thanked the principal for backing me up, but then he suggested maybe that one time I should have just stopped drinking and using foul language.”
“I really didn’t think this was a problem, since wasn’t acting out. Just talking casually and enjoying a couple glasses of wine. But am I really the a**hole for drinking and using foul language in front of my students while off the clock?”
The OP later updated her post to clarify her behavior.
“I was not loud or belligerent or excessively drunk. I had two glasses of wine. And when I say I was tipsy, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. It takes more than two glasses of wine for me to start feeling anything.”
“I wasn’t screaming obscenities. I was just using slightly foul language in casual conversation (e.g. ‘The news is shit.’ ‘It’s too damn hot to be fall.’)”
Anonymous strangers on the internet were asked if and where guilt belongs by declaring:
- NTA – Not The A**hole
- YTA – You’re The A**hole
- ESH – Everyone Sucks Here
- NAH – No A**holes Here
Redditors weighed in with their responses.
“NTA. They can’t expect you to be the teacher 24/7.”
“Also it’s a nice teachable moment the mothers could have used, but chose not to.
“Words don’t have power, unless you give them power. ‘F’k’ is just a 4 letter word, no different than ‘ball.'”
“Teachers are people, too.” – noraya_bo
“NTA, it’s honestly my biggest pet peeve that people don’t think teachers have a life outside of school. You are allowed to have a life, this mom needs to back the heck off.” – ACBaker99
A fellow educator reserved judgment and pointed out the unfortunate reality of their profession.
“Eh, but I can say as a teacher, one of the things they warn you in college and at orientation for a job is that you do represent the school. Technically, because she said hi to them, that means she’s recognizing them as students and is representing the school by default (arguably).”
“It’s a gray area that’s always worried me because I’m young and teach high school, but as long as I don’t go viral, wear school apparel, or is during school hours they cant do anything.”
“I’m also going to assume if they heard the cussing then it wasn’t quiet or anything and most likely was loud. Restaurants even with covid and social distancing are generally loud, so to be able to hear that would mean she probably was which in general isn’t a great look.”
“Its absolutely sh**ty and I hate it, but society sucks. But in general, this is a golden rule of thumb teachers have… don’t get tipsy or drunk or curse in front of your students… in or outside of school.”
“Because they’ll always remember it and thats your reputation for a longtime. Unfortunately, this mom will most definitely tell other moms in the area about this encounter and it won’t be a great look.”
“Again, I’m not saying I agree with it, its just the reality of it.” – symphony789
Other teachers came forward to share the consequences of certain behaviors outside the classroom.
“Yeah, I almost got terminated from my student teaching position because of my cover photo on Facebook, I was at Lollapalooza, wearing festival clothing, just like my friends in the photo.”
“I don’t really go on Facebook so I forgot this was my cover photo. My students found it, went to a bakery, asked them to decorate the cake with the photo, and brought it to school.”
“I changed my cover photo so fast to a picture of my dog and was basically slapped on the wrist dont post photos where I’m dressed like that. I teach high school so its a slightly different story.”
“I don’t blame her for not taking the risk. I generally run in the opposite direction though, just because I’m unsure with some parents how they’ll react. Better safe than sorry.” – symphony789
“Yeah, and I have learned I have to be extra careful around my students if I see them in public. I look 15 and teach high school and I’m not much older than them and they easily think ‘I’m like them.'”
“I buy all my alcohol at liquor stores because I once bought alcohol at a Walmart and one of my students saw, and the first thing she does in class is bring it up.”
“Not a problem because I’m a legal age, but it creates a classroom management issue that with my inexperience at the time was hard to shut down. At least this will be an issue that goes away when I’m older (I hope).”
“Parents also gossip way too much. And kids misconstrue what they tell their parents a lot. So it’s just better safe than sorry and avoiding he said/she said.” – symphony789
“Yeah, it’s absolute sh*t. I know a teacher who got fired for posting pictures of herself drinking wine in Italy. She tried sueing for unlawful termination and lost.”
“Like what else do you do in Italy… but drink wine… thats why I’ll never accept parent friend requests.” – symphony789
“Can confirm coming from a family of teachers. They make this very clear early on in the program – teachers answer to higher expectations.”
“It’s not that they can’t drink or have fun, but that they have to choose the location very, very carefully. And for good reason.” –mockingbird82
A handful of Redditors still thought the OP should have been more discreet.
“ESH. I was leaning NTA but you seem to be arguing pretty hard in the comments that you bear absolutely no responsibility here.”
“Mom absolutely should not have addressed this with you or the school because you’re a person who can enjoy a personal life.”
“Little kids will always idolize you as a teacher though. Seems like your attitude towards that is a giant f’k you I’m off the clock.’ It’s not hard to be a little sensitive to the kids’ needs in the real world.” – Hippocr1t
“This exactly. I’m a grade school teacher, and I still sleep around, drink, and even occasionally get high, but I never put myself in a position where my students would see any of that.”
“There are 18+ only clubs, actual bars, and other places where I can f’k off and live my life. If OP’s students were there, then this was likely a restaurant and not a place where parents would expect to expose their kids to such things, from their teacher no less.”
“But the parents can also use it as a proper teaching experience for their kids. My students know all the bad words, but they know they still shouldn’t use them in class.” – PapaSmurf1502
There remained two camps of Redditors – those who believed that the OP should be able to live her adult life outside the classroom without scrutiny; and those who believed the OP should have adjusted her conduct knowing she was in the presence of her students.