The problem with being an agony aunt is that a lot of people—friends and readers alike—believe I am shock-proof. Early this year, I got a text out of the blues from Aisha, a teacher acquaintance asking to be seen ‘urgently’. She had a very pressing problem that only my ‘wise’ counsel could solve. It came as a surprise. She’s a friend to one of my friends’ daughters, and I had encouraged her to take the teaching job when she was offered. I just assumed she wanted my advice on staff room politics, or to tell me about a new man. She’d always had a fairly chaotic life.
When she arrived, I noticed she looked a bit subdued, but that wasn’t necessarily abnormal for a teacher during term-time. But after he second glass of wine, she started crying, and to my horror ‘confessed’ she’d been having an affair with an SS 3 student! He was 17, and Aisha in her late 20s. According to her, they were ‘in love’. Ignoring my revulsion, she said she’d decided to confess to me because as an agony aunt, I would be less judgmental. And the tale she had to tell was torrid. This affair began with gentle flirting in the classroom, progressed to chatting on email and social media, descended into a drunken kiss after an end-of -year send-off party for the penultimate final year students, culminated in a rump at her one-bed flat. They were now seeing each other in secret, she concluded.
I was tempted to wash my hands of her there and then. I was so disgusted. How could she? In recent times, cases of teachers sleeping with their pupils have sky-rocked. If the statistics were broken down into cases involving men and women, it would surprise people how many offenders would turn out to be women. About two years ago, in far away Britain, Helen Turnbull, 35, was cleared of sleeping with her 16-year-old pupil, but publicly reviled for kissing him and sending him provocative text messages. She got a four-month suspended sentence for abusing a position of trust and was banned from working with children.
That same year, Charlotte Parker, a 32-year-old teaching assistant was barred from teaching after admitting sending thousands of lewd messages to a 14-year-old pupil with whom she began a sexual affair when he was between 15 and 16. Just 20 years ago, a pubescent boy exploited by a female teacher might have been called a ‘lucky-so-and-so’ and his abuse jokingly dismissed as a bit of fun. After all, several house-maids had happily ‘disvirgined’ willing lads over the years.
After I had the ‘chat’ with Aisha, she was on the phone to me a few weeks ago. “I’ve noticed suspicious colleagues constantly ‘popping in’ during break-time, apparently to check up on me and I have this suspicion my emails are being monitored.” She also said pupils were making subtle digs during lessons whilst some incriminating graffiti about the ‘couple’ had appeared in the boys’ toilets. I warned her to stop the affair. She couldn’t—she was too neck deep in it. Eventually, the poor boy’s mum found out and promptly reported her to the school authorities. The result? Her career was over, her professional and personal reputation in tatters.
So what is compelling these professional women to risk their reputations and livelihoods to have relationships with spotting immature teenage boys? “I think a shift in attitudes towards older women having relationships with younger men normalizes it in the minds of some female teachers,” explains a relationship counsellor, “but this is an extreme perversion, where an older woman dates a much younger man. Another frequent feature of these male- student-female-teacher relationships is the fulfillment of an infantile desire for adulation and power on the part of the woman. There is a neediness, and a desire to dominate a weaker partner.”
Aisha, for example, confessed she loved being the powerful one in the ‘relationship’ with her pupil and really got a kick out of the fact that this boy had a massive crush on her. She openly admitted the admiration she got from her male students was the best part of her job. Long hours spent marking after school had eroded her social life, she said, making her dependent on the validation she received in the classroom. Yet she did not consider herself a predator. She had been lonely, and this ‘relationship’ made her feel good.
Another factor leading to the rise of inappropriate student-teacher relationships, says an IT analyst, is the ubiquity of social media, through smartphones, tablets and laptops. Before such technology existed, the only access students had to teachers beyond the week-day hours of 8a.m. to 2p.m was when they bumped into them shopping at the local markets. But nowadays, through Facebook, Istagram, Twitter, blogs and email, teachers upload acres of information about themselves. Most schools have a strict policy not to interact with pupils on Facebook or Twitter. But students are wildly curious about their teachers’ lives and look for their social media profiles.
Aisha for instance, admitted that her attraction to her student began with innocent emails about schoolwork. They became friends on Facebook. Eventually, they began emailing nightly — and the tone became sexual after she ‘d been out drinking. She began to scrutinise his Facebook page and obsess when girls left messages on it. But there is a vast difference between discussing an essay on Macbeth with a pupil and asking him what colour knickers you should wear!
Teens are the least discreet people on earth. If you have an affair with a student, it’s not a question of if, but when you will get caught. “In the end,” concluded the expert “these are sordid stories of adult inadequacy and depravity. They represent a huge betrayal of trust. And the more women who are being prosecuted for it, the better.” (Culled from Vanguard)