Am I not being professional enough?

Discussion in 'General Education' started by adversary, Nov 11, 2009.

  1. adversary

    adversary Rookie

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2009
    Messages:
    62
    Likes Received:
    0

    Nov 11, 2009

    Hey everyone,

    I am an aspiring teacher who is fortunate enough to be hired as a paraprofessional at a high school right now for the 2009-2010 school year. I have been on the job for a little over 2 months now and am wondering about what I should do when it comes to certain situations. I connect with the students I help, and I think the reason why I connect with them so well is because I look young (I'm 23); the kids all thought I was still in high school. I believe that they don't really see me as an adult, but as someone the school hired that is "awesome." Anyway, I consider myself a very warm and friendly person with a lot of patience and I guess because of this also, the kids are very comfortable around me; we joke around and such.

    But sometimes, they ask me questions that are inappropriate like if I have smoked marijuana before, etc. Has this ever happened to you guys? What do you guys do? I mean obviously, I should make something up but I'm a horrible liar. The moment I lie, I start to smirk.

    Is it also okay to joke around (as long as it's appropriate)?

    I don't want to give you guys the impression that I'm not doing my job. As far as I know, the teachers and other paraprofessionals tell me I'm doing a great job; it's just these particular moments that I question myself if my actions are "professional" enough.

    Hopefully, this makes sense. If not, I'll rephrase it.
     
  2.  
  3. Hoot Owl

    Hoot Owl Aficionado

    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2008
    Messages:
    3,888
    Likes Received:
    0

    Nov 12, 2009

    Good morning adversary, and welcome to A-Z forum.

    It's great to have a strong relationship with the kids but when they ask you personal questions you just tell them you prefer to keep your personal life personal. Of course there's some things you don't mind sharing but you don't want to make any trouble for yourself.

    My daughter had a cheer leader coach who told the squad that having sex during your period eased the cramps. Needless to say she was asked to resign the position.

    Just be very careful about how you act and watch what you say. Things can and will be held against you.
     
  4. MissCeliaB

    MissCeliaB Aficionado

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2009
    Messages:
    3,426
    Likes Received:
    599

    Nov 12, 2009

    My students asked me the other day if I drank alcohol when I was in high school. It came up as we were planning for our persuasive speeches. I think it's normal to be curious about the people who are in charge of you away from home.
     
  5. dizzykates

    dizzykates Habitué

    Joined:
    Aug 4, 2005
    Messages:
    815
    Likes Received:
    0

    Nov 12, 2009

    As someone who started teaching at 21 and working high school students at 19 I can attest to the fact they will ask any question that comes to mind and test you until you break (or not!). My recommendation would be to come up with an honest, but stock answer. For example: What I may or may not have done in hs is not rellevant, smoking pot is never a good idea and is not going to help you succeed in life. Or: Right now we're talking about ____(math, phy ed., etc.), please stay focused.
    I have also told kids who are especially persistant that it is an inappropriate question and if they choose to pursue it then I will ask them to leave. And then I do. Then the principal explains that discussing pot/smoking/sex at school is completely inappropriate.
     
  6. Behavior Guru

    Behavior Guru Rookie

    Joined:
    Oct 23, 2009
    Messages:
    19
    Likes Received:
    0

    Nov 12, 2009

    If you start answering personal questions, and the students don't like your answer, they'll assume the worst and start debating you about your behavior. If you tell them you've never smoked pot, gotten drunk, ditched school, etc., even if you haven't, they'll question you in disbelief. High school students know appropriate and inappropriate questions and are more than willing to put your reputation on the line. Don't put yourself in the position of having to debate students about your life. Have a standard response ready, and quickly change the subject.
     
  7. SouthernBuckeye

    SouthernBuckeye Companion

    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2005
    Messages:
    217
    Likes Received:
    3

    Nov 12, 2009

    I teach middle school and my 8th graders are especially nosy. I have a picture of my boyfriend on my desk who is serving in Iraq right now and they've asked if it's my boyfriend and I have not said a peep. :) They also always ask me my age, and I won't tell them that either (I am 24).

    I absolutely do not tell them anything personal because they need to know that I am their TEACHER, not their friend. However, sometimes I use some of my own interests in lesson plans so they learn something about me that's not inappropriate. For example, I love roller coasters and I spent my high school and college summers working in theme parks. So for a math lesson on scatter plots and correlation, we read an article about the top 10 tallest coasters in the world and made a scatter plot of the heights and the drops of the ride. I was able to share with them my interest in it, and they got really into that.

    So yeah...TL;DR is: don't answer anything! You are under no obligation.

    Also...since my 8th grade goes to the high school next year, I'll probably tell them the truth about my age and my boyfriend...on the last day of school when it doesn't matter anymore. ;)
     
  8. msmullenjr

    msmullenjr Devotee

    Joined:
    Jul 14, 2009
    Messages:
    1,161
    Likes Received:
    0

    Nov 12, 2009

    If I were you, I would simply say "You know I am not going to answer any questions about that, nice try though." It keeps it from getting uncomfortable, and it draws that line clearly.
     
  9. adversary

    adversary Rookie

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2009
    Messages:
    62
    Likes Received:
    0

    Nov 12, 2009

    Thank you all for the replies.

    I guess I just have to be more firm about things, and I have to work on keeping a straight face.

    I gave them the whole "let's not talkabout that and focus on your work" but they're just very persistent about it. I just have to maintain my composure, cause when they keep asking, I just start to smirk.
     
  10. BioAngel

    BioAngel Science Teacher - Grades 3-6

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2007
    Messages:
    3,644
    Likes Received:
    108

    Nov 12, 2009

    I'm very cautious with what I share with my students. I have younger students, so I'm glad I don't get the questions about drugs, alcohol, etc. But I have gotten questions about religion and I share very brief details about what I believe, but I also throw out what other faiths believe too. And I follow it up by the "You really should ask your parents about it and discuss what your family believes too."

    As for drinking and drugs, if a teacher has had a not-so-great past, they should realize they have a very strong impression on their students and try to be the most upstanding citizen. If that means you have to lie to your kids, then fine. My students have only asked me once if I ever drink (not even talking about getting drunk) and I said "No, because I don't think it's a very healthy habit." I also make sure that I don't drink if I'm in a place where I know students and their families may be.

    I had a hard time with keeping a straight face too--- what finally got to me was having to do a lesson on reproductive systems to high school students (who were only about 3 years younger than me-- they were super seniors). You have to practice, practice, practice, and now I'm perfectly fine with saying those names in front of students (I'm still smiling on the inside though-- I'm really not that mature). :)
     
  11. Peachyness

    Peachyness Virtuoso

    Joined:
    Jul 14, 2006
    Messages:
    6,181
    Likes Received:
    1

    Nov 12, 2009

    Agree. I started teaching at the young age of 22. From day one I was not a student anymore, I was now a professional educator. When students ask inappropriate questions, I look at them sternly and just continue with the lesson. I may say, that is inappropriate. I do not smirk because it's not funny. Interrupting learning time is not funny. Asking me these questions are not funny. I do share things about myself, but only if they pertain to the lesson. My parents love me and my kids love me, but they also see me as a professional, not as a friend.
     
  12. Simba

    Simba Comrade

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2009
    Messages:
    302
    Likes Received:
    0

    Nov 12, 2009

    I don't answer any inappropriate questions.

    I must say though, that I work with many alternative, at-risk students. Many of my students report to school drunk, high, 9 months pregnant, beaten with black and blue marks visible, (yes, I call attention to these issues) and any other unimaginable situation you can think of.

    More often than I like, I HAVE to face inappropriate situations. We don't discuss my PERSONAL choices, but we do discuss our family environments sometimes. I grew up in a very unfortunate family situation, similar to several of my students. While I won't go into detail, I do try to build a rapport.

    We don't discuss the use of drugs or alcohol, or even sex. We DO discuss family dysfunction. I'm still the teacher...just a teacher that they can confide in.

    Please don't misunderstand my opinion on this situation. Like I said, my situation is very different.

    Just choose wisely.

    Good Luck!!!
     
  13. adversary

    adversary Rookie

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2009
    Messages:
    62
    Likes Received:
    0

    Nov 12, 2009

    I was a lot more firmer today. The super persistent ones, I told them that they can save their questions for me once they have graduated. That seemed to have worked.
     
  14. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

    Joined:
    May 8, 2008
    Messages:
    8,463
    Likes Received:
    1,600

    Nov 12, 2009

    Fantastic news! That may actually prove to be an incentive for your students to get to graduation. :whistle:
     
  15. Ima Teacher

    Ima Teacher Maven

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2005
    Messages:
    5,890
    Likes Received:
    1,393

    Nov 12, 2009

    If mine ask an inappropriate question, I tell them that it's an inappropriate question and move on.

    I started teaching seniors when I was 22. They were full of questions & comments. Didn't get them anywhere, but they always tried.

    Now I still get those kinds of questions, but they're a little different coming from 12 year olds when I'm almost 40. Most of the time they are honestly curious, but tact isn't a strong trait in kids that age.
     
  16. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2006
    Messages:
    27,534
    Likes Received:
    6

    Nov 12, 2009

    The fact that your students have a question about your personal life does NOT mean they're entitled to an answer!! That's part of the line between student and teacher; YOU get to set the parameters of the discussion, not them.
     
  17. JustMe

    JustMe Virtuoso

    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2006
    Messages:
    7,946
    Likes Received:
    3

    Nov 12, 2009

    I don't feel asking your teacher if she or he smoked pot or drank in high school is necessarily an inappropriate question. They are young, curious, and trying to sort out in their mind what is ethical or not and the adults in their life are important to them, so they naturally ask you to help guide their thoughts and perhaps decisions. Of course, I understand if you don't want to be held responsible for the decisions they may make. But especially in a health class or when these topics are being legitimately discussed otherwise, I understand how these questions arise. That said, while I don't think the questions are outright inappropriate, you certainly don't have to answer. If the questions were asked in the context of a true educational discussion, I would answer honestly...but that's because I've never done anything. If I had, I would respond with something such as, "Oh, focus, focus! We're talking about you, now, today! Now come on..." But, if these questions were asked randomly, the students are more than likely simply being nosy and they need to get back on task.

    I do share personal things with my students--they are more than just students, numbers, test scores--they are young people I care about deeply and enjoy getting to know, so I don't feel that sharing personal information is unprofessional at all. Hopefully it can be assumed I am not "revealing" truly personal, private information...but, for example, I would never avoid a question about the picture of my husband behind my desk. And most of my students know my age, what town I live in, my husband's name, my dog's name (and they've met him), what college I attended and what my degrees are in, my general interests and so forth. Yes, I am their teacher, but I'm also a person they spend an incredible amount of time with, so I want to build those all-important personal relationships with the students and enjoy the time we spend learning together. To be honest, some people are not able to do this without crossing that "friend" line, which is not only unprofessional but will ultimately lead to a negative situation, at least in my opinion. I, though, understand how to balance sharing with remaining a figure of authority.
     
  18. smalltowngal

    smalltowngal Multitudinous

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2007
    Messages:
    17,362
    Likes Received:
    46

    Nov 12, 2009

    I normally answer questions that are not inappropriate because I think students should know a little about me as a person. I never answer questions that I don't feel comfortable answering, and I normally tell them it isn't something they need to be asking of a teacher.
     
  19. adversary

    adversary Rookie

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2009
    Messages:
    62
    Likes Received:
    0

    Nov 12, 2009


    That is exactly how I feel, especially with what you said in your second paragraph. I'll just have to make a list in head of what I think is fine to give out and what is not.
     
  20. 1stesl

    1stesl Rookie

    Joined:
    Sep 23, 2006
    Messages:
    75
    Likes Received:
    0

    Nov 12, 2009

    My first year teaching, I taught pre-k, I had one little boy who was rough.....in hit, bite, threw, punched, you name it, he did it. He asked me one time in the middle of a lesson, "Who you lay in the bed with?" Needless to say it caught me off guard, I just said, no one, I'm single,....of course I should have ignored the question, because then he went on to say, "Don't nobody lay on top of you?" My aide then walked him to the office as he was continuing to go off course. He proceeded to ask the principal who she slept with too. Sad, that a four year old would ask such a thing.
     
  21. Historyteaching

    Historyteaching Cohort

    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2007
    Messages:
    724
    Likes Received:
    0

    Nov 12, 2009

    I have 9th and 10th graders-I get asked if I party, drink, ever got into fights (that's a new one as of this week), smoked (anything) etc.

    I aso get asked the basics, age, married and so on.

    I have no problem telling them my age-though I do cringe when I hear "You are the same age as my mom/dad". Or that I am single-not something major to me. They know the town I live in, but nothing further-no street address etc (luckily I teach in a different town than I live in). I let them know that I went to college and the degrees I received-we talk about what a college class is like and how a professor may conduct his/her class-I see nothing wrong with that. Some know other jobs I've worked at-I think this shows them they may not always get the job they want on the first go-around, sometimes you have to do grunt work in the beginning.

    If something I can say can help a student-I don't mind sharing. I let them know I don't drink, cuss, smoke anything, nor did I get in fights in school. They don't believe me in the least (most of them), but as I do tell them I let them know that I didn't need to do most of these things to have fun and enjoy myself.

    Sometimes, if you answer a question like these..somewhat inappropriate..it can lead to a great learning experience and possibly help a struggling student out. But, I think its individual choice and how the district wants things conducted.

    I would try to avoid smirking though-high schoolers pick up on the littlest things and just run with it.
     
  22. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2006
    Messages:
    27,534
    Likes Received:
    6

    Nov 13, 2009

    My kids know a LOT about me; this is the 3rd time I've had some of them. They know about my kids and my husband and my puppy (and the death of the last dog) and a LOT about my medical issues.

    But I get to decide what they know, not them.
     
  23. wrice

    wrice Habitué

    Joined:
    Nov 13, 2009
    Messages:
    758
    Likes Received:
    1

    Nov 13, 2009

    You are in a powerful position as both a person of authority and person whom students trust and revere. You have an obligation then to be the role model these students need and deserve. A question posed to you about smoking marijuana is not a student asking after you personally, but seeking your approval for their behaviors, present or future. In addition to your legal and ethical obligations, as a conscientious person and a trusted friend you should immediately take that student or students aside, quietly and sternly, and express extraordinary concern, disapproval of such clearly illegal and dangerous activity, and support of them getting out of such habits or situations. Follow up the next day and after a week with those kids to make sure they know your relationship hasn't changed but that you most definitely do not approve of those behaviors. What you may or may not have done personally has nothing to do with it!
     

Share This Page

Members Online Now

  1. waterfall,
  2. miss-m,
  3. tigger88
Total: 243 (members: 5, guests: 214, robots: 24)
test