“Are you a teacher?” the woman at the station ticket office called out to me as I walked away from her window, tickets in hand, in search of a coffee.
She had never seen me before. I wasn’t accompanied by uniformed school-age children. No mortar-board perched on my head, no chalky patches stained my fingers.
“No, I’m not. Why do you ask?”
“You look like one, that’s all”
I was wearing black shoes, grey trousers, blue-and-white checked shirt. Nothing about me screamed ‘teacher’. Maybe my specs lent me an academic air, but myopia doesn’t pick and choose between professions.
I was flummoxed.
But she wasn’t way off target. For much of last year and the first six months of 2017 I was a teacher of English to speakers of other languages, mainly to corporate types.
I returned to her window. “Well, actually I am one in a way. I got back recently from teaching English as a foreign language in Mexico City. But I’m not a teacher-teacher.”
Over coffee, I mused over her curious question. Somehow, in the half-minute we spent discussing my best ticket option, she must have picked up some sort of teacher vibe.
I’d like to know precisely what it was. I am also wondering whether I’ve become like a teacher because I’ve been teaching or whether I’ve always had a teacherly aura about me (despite being a latecomer to that line of work).
Over the years, a few people I’ve known well have pointed to my patience and liking for grammar, suggesting that I should consider teaching (they have Latin tuition in mind).
But neither my personality nor liking for words had been on display while I was buying my tickets. So whatever possessed the staff member to say what she did remains a mystery to me.
Perhaps I should have questioned her further, just as any switched-on teacher would do.