What to do (and NOT to do) if you bump into your child's teacher in public

NerdyTeacherMom broke a self-imposed rule at Target yesterday. I bumped into my 8th grader's English teacher and chatted away for nearly five minutes. That was four minutes beyond the time I allow myself to chat with my kids' teachers in public places.

No, I didn't ask anything about my daughter or her class. It was more teacher-to-teacher talk, like how awesome my principal is and will we finally have school on Monday after so many snow days. Even though she seemed to be enjoying the conversation, I felt so ashamed of myself! 

My school is less than a mile away from my house. While it makes for a amazingly awesome commute, this proximity often doubles the length of errands intended to be quick. Let's look at a trip to the grocery store, for example.

Before we get to Harris Teeter, let me interject that I am rather social. My husband says I go out of my way to speak to people. It's part of my make-up, I guess. I'm a preacher's kid. I was a cheerleader and class president in high school. I majored in journalism and Spanish. I spent a dozen years working in public relations. 

When I go to the neighborhood grocery store, I always see somebody I know: my kids' friends' parents, other soccer moms, Girl Scout moms, people from church ... And, undoubtedly, I see somebody from my school: students working the registers or shopping, coworkers grabbing a coffee, and students' parents shopping.

Most parents, I must say, are respectful of my time and location. But, there's always the occasional one who just doesn't get it. And you never quite know when you're going to bump into him (okay, typically "her"). Usually, the encounter is after I've already spent time yapping it up with someone else I know and my kids are calling asking when I'm going to come home with food 'cause they're starving and I really, really have to go the bathroom but am trying to hold it 'til I get home.

One parent kept me hemmed up in the soap aisle for nearly 15 minutes -- and I had taught her child two years prior. She talked about how her son was doing at community college and how real life had kicked in. Now, to be fair, I did engage in the conversation. I even showed genuine enthusiasm. I honestly do appreciate opportunities to talk with parents and especially hear about how well former students are doing. I also know that some people just need to vent (or brag). I'm totally understanding of that. In this case, though, it was afterwards that I realized that the conversation had gone way too long.

I've come up with a few strategies to help me avoid those parents.
1. Wear ear buds and, if necessary, pretend I'm talking to someone.
2. Avoid eye contact. (Okay, this is extremely difficult for me and rarely works.)
3. When I really need to concentrate on saving money (on couponing trips, for example), I drive a few miles to a different grocery store.

Uh, yeah. That's pretty much all I've got. (Teachers, feel free to comment with your strategies.)

Parents, don't avoid me. I mean it. And don't feel like you have to be overly apologetic. Do speak to me and your kids' other teachers when you see us in public. (Just don't ask about your child's grades or behavior.) Watch our body language. If we're backing away or our eyes wander past yours in search of the organic 2% milk, then we're probably trying to keep it moving.


  1. Organic 2% milk? No way! Used to run into my son's middle school principle at the gym. I always tried to keep it short. I only imagine how many parents he met along the way. Of course, if the parents are not involved, then teachers never have thing to worry about. Cheers.


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