Teachers after parents are the greatest influencers in our life. Normally students have a tendency to like teachers, who are presentable, teach well, etc. But if this liking went beyond just liking and took the form of something sinister? If kids start getting sexually attracted to the teachers of the opposite gender, what would happen? Is this attraction normal? Is it because of the ever decreasing student-teacher gap? Is it a distortion of the Oedipus Complex, where kids get sexually attracted to their own parents of the opposite gender? Is it possible to get them off it? Let’s talk to teachers and experts to find out more about the phenomenon.
“The senior male lecturer, my colleague warned me to be careful with the older boys in the junior college I was working in. He said that while I would be presenting my lecture, they would be looking at my beauty and would not concentrate on my lecture. I was the only female lecturer in the English Department. Initially I thought that he was just joking. But I later realized that he was discouraging me from continuing to teach there. That was my first teaching assignment and I wanted to make it big in the profession, so I continued on. However, one day I suddenly realized that one of the boys in the 11th std. was looking at me inappropriately, while I was teaching. I ignored him and did not talk to him about it nor did I treat him like a special student. That way his infatuation was curbed. But I know that every time there won’t be a happy ending to such a story,” lecturer Gauri Sharma shared.
H Jayashree Badrinath, Principal in a school highlights a very thought-provoking incident. She recalls, “Some years back the infatuation of one of our boys studying in 12th std. went to such an extent that he went to a river bridge and threatened his beloved teacher over the phone that if she would not elope with him he would jump into the running water. When it came to my notice, we made the teacher tell him that she was ready to elope with him. Then we sent the teacher first in a taxi to the place and we went in another vehicle after her. At the bridge, we somehow convinced the boy against his decision to commit suicide. Things had come to this because the young untrained teacher had yielded to the boy’s advances.”
A school girl recollected having seen a young male teacher kissing another girl student in the classroom early in the morning, when nobody was there. How ethical is this behavior? Isn’t this taking advantage of the girl’s feelings?
What: Teacher Kanchan Vishwakarma recalls her studentship days, when she had seen such incidents happen in her class. She says, “Students definitely try to impress their favourite teacher by completing their projects on time, doing home and class works right. There is no doubt about it. To some extent this is okay because they are doing well in their studies. But becoming possessive about the teacher and intruding in their private space are not right. At the same time, in my experience forget the younger students, students of classes 6th to 10th do not get sexually attracted to their teachers, unless they are exposed to such things. But then again I do not discount the influence of the western countries, which is here to stay.”
Counselor Sabaa Reshma Khatib takes a panoramic view, “In the current scenario of events happening in the life of a growing child, the society and its various institutions are growing in complexity making it a challenge to understand the minds of students and cater to their needs. These in certain situations pose as problems. Such individuals undergoing a problem definitely require professional help to overcome it. The problem keeps them disturbed, under tension and unless solved, their development is hampered or stunted.”
Sabaa says, “It is nature’s rule for opposite sex to attract. Even a baby is generally more fascinated towards a stranger of the opposite sex. All this being very superficial and volatile, it is a plain liking for the person or admiration for the person. It is generally the case in students as well, where girls admire their male professors or boys admire or like their female teachers. This liking could be towards the way they dress or their talk, their way of teaching, their friendly attitude.”
Sabaa warns that things could get worse. She says, “Attention needs to be paid towards those students who go beyond mere appreciation and liking towards their teachers. They could get over possessive about a particular teacher, especially if he/she is of the opposite sex. The student moves a level above admiration and thinks he probably is in love with the teacher. He/she may send personal cards, write emails and make repeated phone calls. Some may even go to the extent of finding the teacher’s residence and may even go to the teacher’s house often on some pretext. Others may start intruding in the teacher’s day to day lives. The student is so overwhelmed with the teacher that he/she may even want to marry him/her and if opposed can harm someone or self. Such untoward behavior is rare and generally found in extreme cases where the student is perhaps mentally unstable.”
Dr. Meena Kasaragod, Consultant Psychiatrist, Columbia Asia Referral Hospital cautions, “If not controlled on time, the consequences may get very ugly, especially in the eyes of the adolescent since in his/her eyes rebellion stands as a special attraction. Depending on the mental status of the child, he/she may get really possessive and obsessive and it may go beyond control.”
Dr. Maya Kirpalani, Psychologist, Bhatia Hospital denies that this is some sort of an Oedipus complex. She says, “I don’t think so. If the child does not have a father-figure or a mother-figure, then the child may look up to the teacher and expect that the teacher would fill the gap. But being sexually attracted to a teacher of the opposite sex is not Oedipus complex.”
Why: Dr. Meena finds it is very common for students to get attracted to male teachers. She says, “The adult sitting at the teacher’s desk may almost become an idol for the child. He/she may find a model in the teacher; a person worthy of admiration. The student may be attracted intellectually as well as physically to the teacher. Moreover, in modern times student-teacher relationship has broken down. These days the relationship is becoming friendlier and less formal. Students have stopped perceiving teachers as patrons but now they are ‘friends’.”
Dealing with it: Dr Meena stresses on the fact that a teacher should be able to draw a line between being a friend and a professional. She says, “Awareness at all levels is important. In fact it should be vertical as in at the school level, teacher’s level, child’s level and at the parent’s level. It is therefore important to incorporate sexual education in the school curriculum so that appropriateness of relationship can be taught to the children.”
Dr. Maya says, “The teacher should approach the student alone and explain to her/him that she or he was not the only child he/she has to take care of as a teacher. He/she has many others under him/her. Then explain to them that they give him/her some personal space. Ask them if a friend of theirs would be possessive about them, how they would feel. If things go out of hand like a girl slitting her wrist, the parents should be informed. When the parents get involved, they should also be counseled on handling the situation. They should not go home and hit the child.”
Sabaa goes further and advices to identify such students, “Either by his/her friends who can gauge their activities in school/college and bring it to the notice of their superiors or parents; by the teacher who can notice a peculiar behavior in a student, or by the parent who may feel his/her child behaves strangely. The need of the hour for such students would primarily be to talk to them, either by the teacher or parent. In most cases the situations do come in control. If not, the interaction being done by a third person or uninvolved person will simplify the situation and help solve the problem of a troubled student. The aim of counseling here is to help a student form a decision, make a choice or seek direction; route him towards exploring and utilizing his potentialities. It is not an easy task.”
She adds, “Many students are in search of meaning and direction in various life settings including school, college, family and career. All of these involve relationships, thus this has to be handled emotionally rather than purely with intellectual attitudes. The student needs to be communicated with warmth, befriending and by listening to his version, which is not negated in the beginning itself. Because, if so this may further strengthen the child’s feelings and he may rebel. At first we should accept the student and his feelings without criticizing him yet making him realize what he is doing is wrong and such fantasies do happen but they are just passing phases. The sessions with him should be empathetic rather than sympathetic, so that the confidence of the student will not be crushed completely. If the child does not have a psychotic problem he will realize his mistakes and want to rectify it. In cases where the student is beyond the limit of realization then he needs to be administered medications by a psychotherapist along with counseling sessions. In majority of the cases the student with a little support gains his confidence back and is well adjusted to his society.”
After the incident that happened in her school, Jayashree decided to employ only teachers with a B.Ed. degree, because during that course trainee teachers are taught to deal with such situations. She explains, “Since the incident became so blown up that we had to give this boy TC but got him admitted to another nearby school. As for the teacher, we decided to throw her out because she had started yielding to the boy’s advances.”
This article was first published in Eve’s Times and has been reproduced here with permission from the editor, Swati Amar.