Maintaining Professional Distance

Discussion in 'General Education' started by Peregrin5, May 7, 2012.

  1. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    May 7, 2012

    When my P talked to me about my evaluation today, she talked about my rapport with my class. She says I have amazing rapport with my class, maybe even too much rapport.

    This is something I've been struggling with. I don't want to become friends with my students, and I know its because I am so young that they don't really respect me as an adult or an authority figure, but I want to be able to connect with students and show them that I care about them not only in my class but also in their other interests.

    How do you guys maintain professional distance while still letting students know that you are there for them and that you care about them?
     
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  3. orangetea

    orangetea Connoisseur

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    May 7, 2012

    I'm also a young teacher and I know this balance is important.

    There are some teachers in my school, who I believe cross this line by talking about boyfriends, etc. I never entertain questions about my personal life, even though I've been asked many times. I don't even talk about where I live and things like that. I show my students that I care, but make it clear that I'm the adult. I don't think asking about other interests makes you their friend. I think talking about yourself too much can be a bit of an issue though, which is why I rarely talk too much about my personal life.
     
  4. smalltowngal

    smalltowngal Multitudinous

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    I'm a younger teacher as well (well, 30) and I know that my students would like for me to open up more about my life, but I only talk about something if it's directly related to what we're talking about...and nothing ever REAL personal. I have an aide that is about 34 and she's gotten TOO personal with some of the students.
     
  5. Speechy

    Speechy Comrade

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    May 7, 2012

    I agree with this.

    Students like to know about the person who is teaching them; it's only natural to have that kind of curiosity about someone who is teaching and guiding them.

    I was one of those nosy kids too. luckily, once I got into college, professors were a lot more forthcoming about their personal lives. I'll never forget one of my Philosophy teachers asking, "Now, are there any burning questions that you need answered about me before you feel I can be your teacher?" By far, one of the best professors i have ever had.

    Any time a kiddo has asked me a question, I normally respond. The most controversial question I have ever gotten is, "Are you married?" so I have not run into any problems or inappropriate questions. I try and ask how they are doing, show interest in their lives, and show them respect. In return, I hold them accountable for the same.

    It's important to be their teacher, but if you do try to relate to them, that doesn't necessarily mean that they aren't going to respect you. It's just a fine line. Like the other posters have said, it's about balance. Chances are, you're going to be an influential part of their daily lives. They are going to want to tell you things and be their friend. Most will have that expectation. It doesn't mean you have to stop being their teacher and they, in turn, have to stop showing you respect. You just have to be balanced, teach, and guide them.

    After all, it's what you're there for :)
     
  6. Ima Teacher

    Ima Teacher Virtuoso

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    May 7, 2012

    When I started my career, I was 22 teaching seniors. I was really close to their age. I never had an issue with being too friendly with them. Being friendly and being personal are very different things. I avoided engaging in personal conversations with them . . . whether they were about me or them.

    Age doesn't have as much t do with it as you might think. A few years ago I had an intern who was WAY too personal with her students. She was in her late 30's teaching 7th graders. I was the same age. She had issues with kids that I never experienced. I think in our cases it was more of a matter of experience than age.

    You've just got to figure out the proper balance, but while you're trying to figure it out, err on the side of caution.
     
  7. Tek

    Tek Comrade

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    I sub and wonder if I should respond to kids' high fives. Last week a 5th grader wanted to give me a high five. For better or worse, I gave the kid a high five.

    The context though it was the end of the day.

    I don't think if at the beginning I would have done that.

    Do you think high fives are too personal? Should a teacher, regular or sub, engage in student high fives? Not initiating them, but responding to students' high fives?
     
  8. JustMe

    JustMe Virtuoso

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    Tek, there is a group of about five or six boys in one of my classes who insist on fist bumping each day as they enter. I totally do it! And my kids know a lot about me...where I live, that I'm married without children, my siblings, my interests, where I attended school...all kinds of "personal" things. Boundaries have never been a problem.
     
  9. Rockguykev

    Rockguykev Connoisseur

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    I spend a full day the first week of school introducing myself to my students. That 45 minutes buys me more attention throughout the year than anything else I could do with that time. With middle school especially if you aren't real they'll know it and completely reject you.
     
  10. Loomistrout

    Loomistrout Devotee

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    May 8, 2012

    Things being equal, this may be somewhat true. More important in terms of respect or students regarding one as, indeed, a teacher is how one acts. I'm sure we have all known young teachers who commanded respect and seasoned vets who struggle. For lack of better term some call it "withitness" or sort of being one step ahead of the kids. Most of how students perceive the teacher will be answered by the time the first bell rings on the first day. They are keen observers of not so much age rather the attention to organization and structure. Too many beginning teachers (and some vets) want to be liked or, more to the point, have a need to be liked and, thus, often are more concerned about what the students can give them instead of what they can give students.
     
  11. TeachOn

    TeachOn Habitué

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    May 8, 2012

    Boundaries can indeed be a problem, potentially a serious one. A friend relationship, for example, can make for very tough going in discipline, should things go south in that area. If you try to discipline them, they resent that a "friend" would do so and can grow spiteful, resulting at times in a nearly irretrievable situation. It is hard in a post to describe the limits, but I would trust a colleague's advice, assuming you see that person as a sound, experienced teacher.

    I just read this over. It makes me seem as though I believe in an unfriendly, distanced relationship with my students. I don't at all, but have seen what follows from a relationship too much on the "we're all pals here" side of the street.
     
  12. Ms. I

    Ms. I Maven

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    May 8, 2012

    I have the opposite problem. I need to build more rapport w/ kids. I'm an only child & have always been on the serious side since I was a child. I don't have kids of my own nor do I spend time w/ people outside of work who have kids. Yes, I'm nice w/ them, but I need to have that comfortable conversation that just flows naturally for many people. I'm even less comfortable around middle school kids. I have no idea what that age group likes, etc.
     
  13. MissCeliaB

    MissCeliaB Aficionado

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    I am probably closer to some of my drama kids than is normal, but it's not a friend relationship. To many of them, I am a trusted big sister, and to a few I am the closest thing to a mother they have. For many, I am the most stable adult female they have in their lives. It is what it is.
     
  14. smalltowngal

    smalltowngal Multitudinous

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    May 8, 2012

    :yeahthat:
     
  15. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    I've heard that mentioned at a VERY small workshop at a conference I went to (had like 4 people in it), and it was on classroom management. The guy said that a student told him he was the most stable adult male in their life, and that a lot of students are looking for that.

    I drew a lot of parallels between his and my personalities, and I think our teaching styles might be similar. But he has more experience than me and would be able to better draw the line between friend, age group cohort, and student/teacher relationships.

    I keep stressing to my students that I don't get their fads these days, because I'm old. But they keep on insisting that I am "only" 23 and I'm basically like one of them, no matter how much I insist, how professionally I dress, and how many times I discipline them. Having a baby face does not help.
     
  16. MissCeliaB

    MissCeliaB Aficionado

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    It depends on how you are close to them. I knew that one of my students was pregnant before her parents did. She didn't tell me to gossip, she told me because she trusted me to give her medically accurate information and help talk her through the big decisions she needed to make. Another student's mom called to let me know that she was checking into a two-year rehab program, and could I please look out for her daughter for awhile. I don't let kids idly gossip to me about drug use, sex, etc. They do come to me with problems like this, but only if they want advice and help. When they start just talking about personal things that is "friend" talk, I shut them down. We do share our common interests, though.
     
  17. a2z

    a2z Virtuoso

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    May 8, 2012

    I see lots of fads that are downright silly and some that are downright dangerous. I understand why they do both. The former they do because they want to be unique (in a group). They want to break away as a group from the prior groups and show independence from adults in their ideas. The ltter is because they are just downright STUPID at that age and most struggle to understand cause/effect/consequences. Their brains are in overdrive and most really believe they are untouchable and invincible. They want to have fun. Their brains want stimulation and need over stimulation at that age. Mostly what is offered to them as 'fun' things to do are really downright safe and boring.

    It isn't age, it is responsibility that changes you.

    So, is it really that you don't get their fads or you have changed in your thinking over the years. I bet you adhere to some silly fads just as most adults do.

    You now have to adhere to rules of social conduct for the professional world, even though you may like whatever fad you participated in when you were their age.

    So, in reality, you are like one of them. You are like someone that was a teenager in the 50s also. It is all the same mentality, just packaged differently with each group.

    What has changed is your level of responsibilty and the necessity to conform to the expcetations of society to achieve what you want to achieve out of life. Stability in a job, security financially, and enjoyment of your career choice.
     
  18. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Hehe. Well, the point of saying that I didn't get their fads was because I want to age separate myself from them, which didn't work. I am aware I did some pretty silly things when I was their age, or do some silly things now, that people will find silly in the future.
     
  19. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    How do you shut them down?
     
  20. MissCeliaB

    MissCeliaB Aficionado

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    I just tell them that it's not appropriate for them to talk about that with me, and to change the subject. I literally say, "Ew. I don't want to hear about your sex life. New topic please." or "TMI. New conversation."
     
  21. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    HAHA! I love it. xD
     
  22. Bluejay

    Bluejay Rookie

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    May 9, 2012

    Very true!
     
  23. sizzla_222

    sizzla_222 Companion

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    May 9, 2012

    i think i will find this hard next year. i feel that if i become too friendly (even though i want to be) it can lead to the students not respecting me as a authority figure.

    I know that i have a job to do - educate the kids.... and i cant do that if they are not doing what i want them to do.
     
  24. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    My students know a lot about me and my children. They also know that there are things about them and about me that I will not talk about and that I will not be distracted from the work we need to do. I'm like "mom" to some of them, but they know (at least most of the time) where the line is that they do not dare cross.
     

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