I’m in a toxic relationship. It’s an addiction of sorts, a dependency. My state of mind, my physical well-being, my day-to-day, minute-to-minute functioning depends on it. My family has noticed, and my friends are concerned. My students are picking up on it.
My students have realized that I’m in a toxic, terrible-horrible-no-good-very-bad relationship with coffee. Black; coffee, black.
Today, I presented my students with a word problem. It read, “Ms. Jones drinks six mugs of coffee per day. To fill her mug each time, Ms. Jones brews two K-cups. How many K-cups does she use in one day? If she wants to buy enough 20-pack boxes of K-cups to last her two weeks, how many boxes should she buy at Kroger this afternoon?”
I’ll admit that the minute I read this problem to the class, I realized that I might have a problem. But then something happened that drove the point home. I floated around the room to look at students’ problem-solving process, and, among lots of numbers, operation signs, and solution labels, I saw something proud. In choppy, fourth-grade handwriting I saw, “Ms. Jones drinks waaaay too much coffee.”
I had been outed. And after I spent a few seconds staring deep down into the dark, stained depths of the nearly empty coffee mug in my hand, I was pumped. I had been outed, and I was delighted. I was delighted not out of hopes that my students would start bringing me gifts of K-cups and Starbucks (because, let’s be real; that stuff’s expensive), but I was delighted in the relief of knowing that my students had outed me from my teacher facade and into personhood.
At that moment, I realized that my students see past my fancy name tag, beyond my lessons, and through my “nerdy thinking glasses,” as they like to call them. They see me as a person — and apparently a person with a real weakness for coffee.
But even more, I realized that they want to see me that way. They want for me to be a 24-year-old graduate student, to have a weird coffee addiction, to keep tripping over my laptop charger, to accidentally spell something wrong on the board, to tell a cheesy joke, to be relatable, to be silly, to be human. I realized that my students can relate to these quirks, that they define me by them, that they learn from them. I realize that they look for me in them and that they look for themselves in them.
I’ve been outed, and I’ve been humanized. My students have figured me out. I’ll keep my classroom full of this openness, this availability, and this transparency so long as I can keep my mug full of coffee, black.