The article below has been submitted by Grace Chia, 19, student.
30 years ago, during my parents’ time, teachers and students drew very clear boundaries. Students were afraid of their teachers and respectful of them because they were able to discipline their students using whatever means they deemed necessary if they misbehaved. There was little to no instance when one would refer to one’s teacher as one’s friend.
Now however, times have changed. Teachers today are friends with their students on Facebook, they communicate with them via SMS and some even have class chat groups on Whatsapp. The line between student and teacher has been greatly blurred. For better or for worse?
On one hand, I feel that this blurring of lines has allowed teachers to bond a lot better with their students. It has allowed them to understand and engage them on a personal level. This makes it a whole lot easier for students to approach teachers for help because of the level of trust gained through increased interactions with each other, be it on social media or in person. Perhaps in the past, teachers seemed like just people who came in to class, taught you and marked your work, and if you misbehaved, the disciplinarian. But now, knowing them on a more personal level changes the way we view them. They become more ‘human’ to us.
On the other hand, I think teachers have opened themselves to a lot more risks in terms of treading on the thin line between appropriate behaviour and inappropriate behaviour. As a result, their actions might be interpreted differently by the student and hence they might face complaints or even disciplinary action as a result. It is precisely because this line is not clearly drawn out before the existence of the guidelines for teacher’s conduct, that we need it, because every one may have their own lines drawn differently and this opens up the teacher’s actions to interpretation which may be a grey area.
Well meaning teachers who want to get to know the student better might be put in a vulnerable position as a result and students may also get uncomfortable, depending on the line that they have subconsciously or consciously drawn for themselves on what is deemed appropriate.
On a more personal note, a teacher who has helped me up from a path of self-destruction and depression was recently forced to resign because of his behaviour with another student which was in a moral grey area. At that time, lines were not clearly drawn out and all was open to personal interpretation on what was appropriate and not. Although I do not side with what he did, I can’t help but wonder if lines were clearly drawn out then, would it have helped guide his actions better and not have led to his resignation? Knowing him for some time, I believe he isn’t innately bad or out to violate boundaries between student and teacher, I think it was a matter of having a difference in opinion over boundaries.
To the teachers who think that the new guidelines are an insult to the profession because it shows a lack of trust for those in the profession, I say, it isn’t an insult but rather a means to protect the sanctity of the profession and the relationship between teacher and student. It is a means to draw boundaries but in no way a means to create walls between the student and teacher. It is a means to protect both teachers and students from getting incriminated by walking into grey areas.
Teachers are an integral part of our workforce because they help to shape the minds and hearts of our next generation. Although there are a few who have been caught and charged with various immoral acts committed during service, let’s not be quick to jump the gun and question the morals of our teachers. Let this be a time where we sit down and draw out a plan to ensure that our teachers are equipped with the skills and guidelines to better help their students in a more appropriate manner and distance themselves from the possibility of having their good intentions to be misinterpreted.
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