I can’t tell you how much attention I get when I grade papers in public. People will just stare at my pile of tests and watch as I work through them. Anyone sitting by me will feel the need to ask me what I teach and where I teach it. Despite the fact that supermarkets regularly decide that it is not worth carding me to buy alcohol, plenty of people will pry into my age and make it clear that I’m probably not old enough to be a teacher.
I really don’t mind it (random conversations with friendly people are actually a nice break from mindless work), but I do find it exceedingly strange. Marking hundreds of problems as correct or incorrect is hardly a riveting activity, and yet I know from experience that I could wear a ridiculous costume on the street and get less attention. My theory is that people are fascinated because everyone feels connected to teaching (we’ve all been students for long enough) and grading is a familiar enough concept that they feel like it’s fair game to be their business. I also wonder if it’s a little like briefly getting to go backstage at a show they watched every day for years. I don’t know… I guess it doesn’t really make sense, but it’s true. Strangers LOVE to watch grading.