DEBATE: 'Should teachers form personal relationships with students?'
EACH WEEK we ask two writers with contrasting opinions to debate the question...
The fact that we are even having a debate about whether or not teachers – those charged with raising the future citizens of this country – are allowed to form personal relationships with their students is surely a mark of the sad, sad times we live in.
It is fundamentally important that teachers, in order to properly nurture our children and ensure they learn in a meaningful way, are allowed to interact with their pupils on an individual basis. In secondary school, my favourite teachers held such revered positions in my mind due to one crucial factor.
It was not their deep understanding of their subjects that enchanted me. Nor was it their dynamic teaching styles – although both these qualities were certainly present within them. Instead it was something much more simple. It was their ability to connect with me on a personal level – they inspired me to learn.
Another argument to stop teachers forming personal relationships with their pupils is the possibility of inappropriate behaviour. But why can’t we trust them? Teachers are already considered by wider society to be the most trustworthy of people. Why can’t they be trusted to innocently befriend one of their own pupils?
Of course I do appreciate the notion of an abuse of trust by someone who is looked up to by his or her students which is why I am far from ready to give my full support to student-teacher romantic relationships. However, I do feel that (especially with students aged over 16) it is important we approach each case with an open mind.
This allows us to look at whether or not there was a significant abuse of trust between a student and educator or if, actually, it might be better to let a relationship flourish between two human beings.
Teachers, by definition, are there to teach young, easily influenced minds and put them on course for a positive, rewarding future in society. Teachers are not placed in classrooms to be friends with their students – they have their fellow peers for friendship.
The age old teacher -pupil relationship, based on authoritative role models and unquestioned respect, should not be washed over so easily. Teachers and students are not equal and therefore would never be able to form sensible, balanced friendships, let alone a relationship.
Personal relationships are a difficult thing to measure and are completely subjective. Where do you draw the line between a healthy classroom acquaintance and an inappropriate teacher-student relationship? If teachers decided to embark upon an appropriate friendship with a pupil they are completely within their rights.
However, they do open themselves up to the possibility of accusations and awkward questions as the lines are blurred between appropriate and inappropriate actions.
School teachers should be banned from forming personal relationships with their students to protect both parties.
Allegations of unsuitable relationships with students made against teachers, even when proven false, can have long lasting detrimental effects on an educator’s career and personal life. On the other extreme, students who embark upon a personal relationship with a teacher are at risk of being taken advantage of and abused by a figure of power that they may not find the strength to stand up to.
After the recent high profile scandals of child abuse splashed all over the media involving abused young people and accused adults (some wrongly) in positions of power, we now must take measures to safeguard students and teachers from the social minefield that is teacher pupil relationships. Therefore I believe that students should leave relationships on the playground.
The 'Head to Head' column is by the London 360 reporters. To find out more about what our reporters are up to go to communitychannel.org/london360 WE ARE LONDON!