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My Student Has a Crush on Me

I'm a young teacher having problems with a crush.

Dear Dr. G.,
I am kind of in a difficult situation with a student right now. I am a 22-year-old female history teacher and my student is 17. He has made it apparent that he has a crush on me. I don't know how to handle this situation. I don't want to hurt his feelings or make him feel embarrassed or ashamed but I want him to know that it is not okay because I am his teacher. I don't think he understands since we are so close in age.

Any advice will be wonderful.

A Distressed Young Teacher

Dear Teacher,

I am very pleased that you wrote to me. I am very impressed with the sensitivity inherent in your letter. You stated clearly that you don't want to embarrass or shame this young man and that makes perfect sense. Nothing good results from shaming anyone ever. In fact, this type of behavior is not good for the one shaming or the person shamed. Shame and embarrassment are two of the worst and most uncomfortable feelings that individuals of all ages experience.

It is not uncommon for students to develop crushes on their teachers, particularly if they are close in age. Nonetheless, if the crush moves from private thoughts to public behavior, then the issue needs to be addressed. You can do this in several steps.

First, if this young man is overtly flirting with you, then you can try to extinguish this behavior by ignoring his overtures. This could prove to be a very effective strategy. Second, look at your own behavior and make sure that you are maintaining clear boundaries with your student. Do not share personal information or joke too much with him. This is likely to be misinterpreted. Third, if your attempts to be non-responsive to this student's overtures and your attempts to monitor your own behavior do not lead to a successful resolution, then perhaps it is time to have a meeting with the student.

Approach this meeting with good intentions and with the goal of educating the young man about appropriate boundaries in a kind and sensitive manner. You will, of course, need to set up a private meeting. During the meeting, explain to the student in a non-accusatory manner that you are his teacher and that there are certain expectations of appropriate behavior that should define the student-teacher relationship. Make sure that he understands what you are saying. Explain that you are not mad at him but yes it is perfectly fine to explain that his behavior is making you uncomfortable and is perhaps interfering with your ability to teach effectively.

If the student understands and modifies his behavior, that is wonderful. Make sure that you don't inadvertently begin to ignore him completely because of his past behavior. After all, crushes on teachers are not infrequent, particularly if the student admires you. If, however, the student starts to engage in stalking or any other type of escalating behavior, you will have no choice but to speak to your supervisors and address the issue in a more formal manner. I hope that it doesn't come to this.

Please get back to me and let me know the outcome. Good luck!

Dr. G.

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