Yesterday morning one of my students sidled up to the circulation desk before first bell and asked, “Were you, by any chance, at roller derby this Saturday?”
I was, in fact, and I had a great time–but instead of thinking about what fun I had with my friends, inwardly I started panicking.
Had I been drinking? Was I swearing publicly? Did I wear something I wouldn’t wear to school?
(For the record? The answer is “All of the above,” although we happened to be surrounded by small children so the swearing was probably at a minimum–instead we entertained the other adults in our area by gruffly shouting polite encouragement, like “I’M SO PROUD OF YOU!” and “I LIKE WHAT YOU DID THERE!”)
Running into a teen you serve in your library when you’re both somewhere else can be lovely, weird, or some combination of the two. Whether it’s at the grocery store or a roller derby bout, you’re suddenly off-duty and the dynamic shifts. What if you run into teens while they’re doing something you wouldn’t allow in the library? What if teens run into you while you’re doing something you wouldn’t do in front of your boss?
We’re all allowed to have lives outside of work. Some of us may relish the chance to interact with teens from our community in a different setting, whether it might be at a pride parade, a sporting event, or just a local restaurant. Others of us may shy away from the spots where our teens might be, hoping to keep our personal lives private or to just avoid the pressure of being “on” all the time.
Whether it’s a chance encounter or a planned excursion, your interaction with a teen outside the library could actually help your relationship–remember how seeing your elementary school teacher out in the world changed your view just a little?–and it could raise some interesting questions the next time you meet at work.
As far as I’m concerned, it’s great for my students to see me and their teachers from time to time outside of the school building. I like that they get the chance to see us as regular folks. But just as I wouldn’t want to butt in where my teens are trying to hang out and just be themselves, I’m grateful that I have social spaces to just hang out with my friends and be an adult who isn’t worried about writing passes or giving lessons.
Have you had a “run-in” with teens from work? How did you handle it?