Other than parenting, being a teacher is the best, most enjoyable and hardest job I can imagine. It is the most challenging, thought-provoking and rewarding 24-hour-a-day job that gives both immediate feedback and none at all. For decades I've read articles about teachers who are burdened by taking on additional unwanted roles for "students today" including: parent, social worker, confidant, psychologist, and friend. Those articles irritate me. Let's face it, if people actually go into education thinking they are simply going to teach their subject(s) to their class of students during school hours, they should definitely look into other lines of work requiring less energy and initiative. Teachers have always known that it takes a village to raise a child!
In my tenure teaching elementary, middle school and college students, any given day could be described as: fun, exasperating, tiring, insightful, energizing, great, hilarious, and problematic. (I could have probably described a few days using ALL of those...) I entered my classroom each day with high hopes, high expectations, and the idea that we're all going to work hard and learn together. My rules were simple. I had words above my board like caring, initiative, responsibility, effort, problem solving, integrity, teamwork, and perseverance. Along with my number one rule of "No Put Downs," they were my classroom rules. My students didn't always follow every rule, no one is perfect, but the rules were clear, consistent, and always on display. Regardless of the behavior, students knew that my classroom had hugs, smiles, a really ridiculous joke every now and then, and granola bars in my bottom drawer for anyone who forgot lunch.
My school days began around 5:00 a.m. with coffee, and then some more coffee and loads of excitement to see my students again. I loved being a teacher and, until I had kids of my own, it defined me. Each year my students had my school, home and cell phone numbers. Several teachers were aghast that I gave out my home and cell phone numbers, but I wanted my students to always be able to reach me. Despite what people may think, I did not live at school and did not constantly check my email. If students only had my school email and phone number, there would be many hours a day that they'd be unable to reach me; therefore, parents and students could likely go to sleep without their questions answered. I didn't want that. I asked my students to try to problem solve their way through their question first by researching it and asking a friend or two, and then contact me if they were still unsure. I also asked them to please not take advantage of having my cell phone number and no one ever did. Throughout the day (or evening until 9:00 p.m.) I would get some emails, or notes or calls from students and parents about a variety of issues. It could be a homework question, a family problem, or even a student who wanted me to know that she really tried on that quiz. I called and emailed them, too. Parents tended to be shocked that I called to tell them about something wonderful or funny their child did in class that day, but I loved their child and I wanted them to know it. If I needed to make a call about a not-so-wonderful thing their child did in class, it was that much easier for me and for them.
There seem to be two schools of thought about "sharing one's personal life" with students. I always let my students know I was human. I told them about running my first (and only) 10k, invited them to my wedding, (no, not the reception) and told them a few funny stories along the way about my cats and my kids. I always found time to let my students know I was a real person. I still keep in touch with lots of my students, many of whom have children of their own now. They may remember details of some stories, but mostly they recall how they felt in my class and how I cared about them as a person first, student second.