Section 5: Teacher-Student Relationships
The way to a good reputation is to endeavor to be what you desire to appear. — Socrates
No one anticipates becoming the target of a major news story when deciding to become a teacher. Young teachers, particularly secondary teachers, are extremely vulnerable to false allegations. In rare cases, the allegations are true, but, in most cases, they are not. By the time the truth is known, it may be too late to save the reputation of the teacher.
It is imperative that young teachers take the necessary steps to protect their good names, their reputations, and, ultimately, their careers.
One significant decision you face as a new teacher is to decide whether and when to touch students. It is risky to touch students anywhere except on the back or shoulders or arms. One important factor is the age of the student. In primary grades, it is next to impossible to avoid hugging students. As children grow older, hugging becomes less appropriate. By the time the child is in secondary school, hugging will be viewed with suspicion.
It is best for a new teacher to cultivate a respectful and business-like approach toward students.
Avoid being alone with students. When you’re alone, you are inherently vulnerable because you will not have a corroborating witness in the event a student makes an allegation against you. You need to arrange an activity where you are in sight of another adult, and you need to ask that person to observe your work with a student.
Other questionable activities include social activities with students such as inviting students to your home or an athletic event. Driving a student home may be against district policy. Be certain that other adults unrelated to you are present during the social activities.
The most common reason school employees lose their jobs is due to accusations of sexual misconduct with students. Some sexual misconduct involves words only – it is not necessary to touch a student to be accused. Avoid making remarks on the attractiveness of a particular student’s hair or clothing.
This section may have frightened you; it was intended to make you think about your actions and words. A little forethought and good judgment will protect you from sexual misconduct allegations.