Can I Confide in my Teacher?

Sophie Lewis '18, Guest Writer

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Originally featured in the March 2018 Edition

When asking around, we find that some of the Upper School Baldwin students find little use in confiding in a teacher when it comes to personal matters because it puts them in an awkward and uncomfortable situation. This inability to go to a teacher in times of need sometimes comes from the student’s unwillingness, but it can also come from the teacher’s reluctance due to conflict of interest.
Faculty have education-based relationships with their students. According to a study at the University of Michigan, “The teacher-student relationship lies at the foundation of the educational process.” (http://digitalcommons.uri.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1284&context=oa_diss) Emotions should remain out of it. This occurs for mandated and legal reasons, as well as emotional reasons for both teachers and students.
Guidance Counselor Ms. Strauss said, “The difference between counselors and teachers is that teachers don’t have that training to necessarily … hear the information, figure out what emotions that brings up in them and then still maintain that student-teacher relationship. It’s a conflict of interest, it’s a boundary crossing.”
Also coming into play are the stereotypes associated with certain students and teachers; some feel that it is difficult for teachers to understand their students as they only know them in an educational setting.
Josephine Gantz ‘18 said, “I would just feel uncomfortable telling them about something personal because they only really know me as a student in their classroom.”
Because of Baldwin’s tight-knit community, many students have developed relationships with faculty that can be easily altered when the relationship takes on a new foundation, especially when their relationship is developed through shared intellectual or club-related interests. Despite this, some teachers feel that professional distance in their relationships needs to be maintained.
Sophia Nicoletti ‘18 believes that teachers stay detached to “avoid being politically incorrect and avoid stepping over boundaries.”
The ability to confide in a trusting adult seems ideal, but sometimes a student’s classroom relationship with said faculty member can get in the way and can leave a student hesitant to ask for help and a teacher reluctant to respond.
While Baldwin faculty are always willing to help a student in need, they do have boundaries that cannot be crossed, unlike a therapist or parent.

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Can I Confide in my Teacher?