Educators are often looked upon to be moral leaders for a community. They have such a profound impact on and contact with youth that they are often held to higher moral standards than the average person. They are expected to avoid compromising situations. Whether you agree or disagree with this sentiment, it is still a reality and one that should be taken into consideration for anyone thinking about becoming a teacher.
It seems like you cannot open a newspaper or watch the news without seeing another educator that failed to avoid a compromising situation. These situations do not typically occur on whimsy, but instead, develop over a period of time. They almost always begin because the educator lacked good judgment and put themselves in a compromising situation. The situation continues and progresses for many different reasons. It likely could have been avoided if the educator would have acted rationally and worked to avoid the initial compromising situation.
Educators would avoid 99% of these situations if they simply use good common sense. Once they make the initial error in judgment, it is almost impossible to correct the mistake without there being consequences. Educators cannot put themselves in a compromising situation. You must be proactive in avoiding these situations. There are several simple strategies to protect you from losing your career and going through unnecessary personal strife.
Avoid Social Media
Society is bombarded by social media every single day. Sites such as Facebook and Twitter will not be going away anytime soon. These sites offer all users the unique chance to allow friends and family to stay connected. The majority of students have one or multiple social media accounts, and they are on them all the time.
Educators have to be careful when creating and using their own personal social media accounts. The first and most important rule is that students should never be accepted as friends or allowed to follow your personal site. It is a disaster waiting to happen. If for nothing else, students do not need to know all the personal information made readily available when given access to your site.
Document/Report Situation if Unavoidable
On occasion, there are some situations that cannot be avoided. This is especially true for coaches or coaches who may students waiting to be picked up when they are finished. Eventually, only one could be left. In that case, the coach/tutor could choose to go sit out in the car by themselves while the student waits at the doors inside the building. It would still be advantageous to let the building principal know the next morning and to document the situation, just to cover themselves.
Never Be Truly Alone
There are times when it may seem necessary to be alone with a student, but there is almost always a way to avoid it. If you need to have a conference with a student, especially with a student of the opposite sex, it is always wise to ask another teacher to sit in on the conference. If no other teacher is available to sit in on the conference, it may be better to postpone it, than to have it. At the very least, you can leave your door open and make sure others in the building are aware of what is going on. Do not put yourself in a situation where it could be a he said/she said type of deal.
Never Befriend Students
Many first year teachers fall victim to trying to be their students' friend instead of being a solid, effective teacher. Very little good can come out of being a student's friend. You are setting yourself up for trouble especially if you teach middle school or high school students. It is far better to be a good, hard nose teacher that most students do not like than it is to be one that is best friends with everyone. Students will take advantage of the latter and it often easily leads to compromising situations at some point.
Never Exchange Cell Phone Numbers
There are not many solid reasons to have a student's phone number or for them to have yours. If you have given a student your cell phone number, you are simply asking for trouble. The texting era has led to an increase in compromising situations. Students, who would not dare say anything inappropriate to a teacher's face, will be bold and brazen through a text. By giving a student your cell phone number, you open the door to those possibilities. If you do receive an inappropriate message, you could ignore it or report it, but why open yourself to that possibility when you can just keep your number private.
Never Give Students a Ride
Providing a student with a ride puts you in a liable situation. First of all, if you have a wreck and the student is injured or killed, you will be held responsible. That should be enough to deter this practice. People are also easily seen in cars. This can give people a false perspective that can lead to trouble. Let's say that you innocently give a student whose car broke down a ride home. Someone in the community sees you and begins a rumor saying that you are having an inappropriate relationship with that student. It could ruin your credibility. It simply isn't worth it, because there were likely other options.
Never Respond to Personal Questions
Students of all ages will ask personal questions. Set limits immediately when the school year begins and refuse to allow your students or yourself to cross that personal line. This is especially true if you are unmarried. It is no student's business as to whether or not you have a boyfriend or girlfriend. If they cross the line by asking something too personal, tell them they crossed a line and then immediately report it to an administrator. Students often fish for information and will take things as far as you let them.