TEFL problems solved: how to handle a student crush

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As a TEFL teacher, you’re often teaching students who are the same age as you or potentially older, which can change the dynamics of the student-teacher relationship. Teaching someone a new language can lead to, at times, quite personal conversations about their families, childhoods, ambitions – conversations you probably wouldn’t have casually. From the students’ point of view, you’re someone who listens to what they say, who engages them in conversation – and that kind of attention can be misinterpreted, leading to students developing crushes on their teachers. But how do you handle this awkward situation? Here are our suggestions:

If you become aware that a student has a crush

Tell your DoS or the head of the English department right away. Even if there’s no tangible evidence, letting them know about it is important in case it escalates into something more serious. They also might be able to offer a simple solution such as switching classes with another teacher. If you have a private class, it’s a little trickier – but adopting your most professional manner will help to discourage them from acting on their crush.

If a student gives you a Valentine’s card or a love note 

Don’t discuss it with the student and don’t write back. Show it to your DoS so they’re aware of what’s happening. With a private student, emphasise that this behaviour is inappropriate and suggest finding them a new teacher if they can’t maintain a professional teacher-student relationship. While this might feel cruel at the time, it’s better to be absolutely clear from the start rather than leave them with the impression that something romantic could potentially happen between you.

If a student asks you for your phone number, address, or Facebook

Tell the student that if they need to contact you then they can do so through the school reception, and that you don’t give out your personal details to students. Obviously a private student will probably have your phone number – but don’t tell them your address. And don’t accept friend requests from students on Facebook or Instagram – would you really want them to have that level of insight into your life?

If a student tries to arrange to meet you outside school

Suggest that, if they have something they’d like to discuss, they can stay behind after class one day for a meeting with you and your DoS. Don’t meet them socially outside school hours.

If you bump into a student while you’re on a night out

Just go somewhere else. After all, do you really want your students to see what you get up to outside work?

If a student asks you out on a date

Tell them as bluntly as possible – without being rude – that you’re not interested in them in that way and that in any case you would never date a student. It’s damaging to your professional relationship and could harm your career. If you want to go on a date with them – find them another teacher, and once you’ve stopped teaching them then go on the date!

And remember…

If you ever feel intimidated or threatened by a student it’s important to communicate that as clearly as possible to your DoS. And if it’s a private class, you’re under no obligation to continue teaching someone who isn’t respecting your boundaries.

Have you ever had to deal with a student crush? What did you do?

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