What to do if a Student Makes You Feel Uncomfortable in a Lesson (All Teachers)
I wanted to raise this topic as I had a call from one of the teachers I work with today in regard to a student who made her feel uncomfortable during their lesson and share with you my personal recommendations in regard to any situation where you, as the teacher, feel uncomfortable during a lesson due to the behaviour of a student.
Although such incidences are thankfully extremely rare in regard to teachers feeling uncomfortable during a lesson they do happen – during my time running this I would say teachers have told me of about 8 incidents that made them feel uncomfortable, this is from thousands of lessons taught over five years.
Nonetheless, anytime a teacher feels uncomfortable in the presences of a student is one time too many for me personally – while we warmly welcome the general public often into our homes to teach them, we as teacher have a greater responsibility to ourselves to ensure that we are safe in our teaching environment. Therefore, whether you feel uncomfortable rightly or wrongly (perhaps these feels are misplaced) do not ignore it!
It is better to end that situation with a student who perhaps unintentionally making you feel uncomfortable, than to allow the situation to continue with a student who perhaps is deliberately making you feel uncomfortable. I would also recommend that all teachers take a few minutes to think about a suitable exit strategy from such a situation – i.e. how to get a student out of the door if needed – as well as a suitable notification strategy so you can alert someone you trust who can come to your location rapidly if needed.
To be clear I have never had a report of anything to me of anything more serious than a teacher feeling uncomfortable during a lesson – this is not a euphemism for any type of physical, mental or sexually inappropriate behaviours of a student. Should these ever occur they need to be responded with in the most serious nature, including involving the police.
It is perhaps a stage before that, if there is such a thing, where you senses are just picking up something that isn’t quite right in terms of the vibe from that student. I would like to add this isn’t solely something that female teachers face – I myself had a strange experience with a new male student demanding I got in a taxi to his house immediately to teach him when we had arranged that he come to me (when I declined he became very aggressive and proceeded to call me at 3am in the morning for the next two weeks).
However, I would say the majority of the situations that I have been made aware of are reported to me by female teachers. As a consequence I would recommend having a think about your exit strategy of how to get a student out the door if needed, alongside how you can rapidly reach out to gain help / notify someone you might need assistance if such a situation arrises. I would also like to add that such situations can occur from both male and female students, as well as students of all ages.
1. These situations are rare, but have something in place should they occur
2. This should include an exit strategy to get yourself / the student out of that situation
3. It should also include a way of rapidly notifying someone that you might need assistance. This person should be able to get to your location rapidly to assist if needed. You should brief that person about a situation like this occurring and the response you would like them to take if notified.
4. It can happen to both male and female teachers. Though female teachers, in my experience, experience these situations more frequently.
5. Such situation occur from both male and female students.
6. Should you feel uncomfortable, whether for legitimate or misplaced reasons, absolutely end the lesson and remove yourself from that situation. It is better to get it wrong by getting yourself out of a situation that was harmless, than remain in a situation that is not thinking “I am sure it is just me”.
7. Trust your instincts & stay safe!
I would now like to open this up to other teachers to post advice and experiences (should they wish) in regard to this topic. As I say it is incredibly rare and almost all of the people that come to our lessons are lovely! That said we teach the general public so it is important we take our own safety seriously.
Finally, should you ever need to reach out to me to talk about an incident in complete confidentiality please don’t hesitate to give me a call.