Should teachers really be friends with their students?
I don’t mean friend as in friendly, kind, accepting, etc. — I mean friend as in the kind of friend that you hang out with outside of class, the friend you call at night to tell about your latest accomplishment, the kind of friend that you have over on your birthday. Should teachers be this kind of friend to their students?
My opinions on this subject stem from an experience in high school. Not my own experience, rather the experience of a sideline viewer.
A student I knew in high school was close friends with her teacher. They hung out, played volleyball and basketball, called each other to talk about whatever was on their mind, went out to dinner — the kind of things all good friends do. But this student was also in the class of this teacher, and their friendship proved a negative to their classroom interaction.
The student could get away with things that no other student could, because the teacher was her friend. The student could speak to that teacher like no other student should, because the teacher was her friend. And everybody watching this happen commented negatively about how their friendship was spilling over into the classroom. Other students resented the fact that this one student could do, or say anything she wanted and get away with it.
I was bothered greatly by the affect that this student/teacher friendship had on my class (I was in the class with them both.) I vividly remember the student walking away from a major fight with the teacher (which took place in front of everyone else in the class) and not even receiving detention, when any other student would have received several days of suspension. I lost respect for both individuals that year.
So I ask again, should teachers be this kind of friend to their students? I don’t think so. I realize that there might be a few exceptions, but in general, I think teacher’s must retain a proper student-teacher relationship that doesn’t allow for partiality or other issues that might work their way into the classroom. I believe this is particularly important on the high school level.
To read an interesting article written by a teacher on this subject, check out http://plpnetwork.com/2011/09/23/should-teachers-friend-their-students/.