Since the Bishops school sex scandal broke last week, I've heard many stories from parents about the schoolyard crushes they had in high school. The student-teacher dynamic is clearly as prone to romantic complications as any other.
There are problems though, because no matter how mature a high school student might seem, the rules around teacher-student interactions are clear.
The SA Council of Educators Code of Conduct stipulates that a teacher:
- Refrains from improper physical contact with learners;
- Refrains from courting learners from any school;
- Refrains from any form of sexual harassment (physical or otherwise) of learners;
- Refrains from any form of sexual relationship with learners from any school.
The most normal thing in the world
We spoke to psychoanalyst Enzo Sinisi to find out more about this complex issue, but he told us his first thought was “I have no idea what to say about this”.
He went on to explain that he soon realised why.
"As a clinical psychologist/psychoanalyst, this is simply not in my realm because it’s the most normal thing in the world," he told Parent24.
"Crushing on a teacher is an experience that I’m sure a huge number of people are familiar with," he said. "Far more than one might realise because its also not the kind of thing everyone will feel comfortable to share openly."
Sinisi remembers feeling that it would be terrible if anyone found out that he liked a teacher, or even worse that he thought they liked him back. "Imagine the teasing that could follow!" he said.
So what should you do if you find yourself in this situation?
Crushes can be super intense and its easy to loose your head in a crush, at any age.
"Its especially easy when you are young because you don’t have the experience to realise that these are feelings and that they pass," Sinisi told us.
"When you are in the throes of a crush it’s easy to think that you are in love and that the person you are crushing on is some how special. They can seem like your soulmate."
"You imagine that they are the only one for you," he describes. "It feels as though you were made for each other and that you will never be happy without them. Since teachers are, by definition, off limits this can leave you rather distressed."
A crush is almost always based on a fantasy
"Remember that a crush is almost always based on a fantasy of what another person is like," he warned, "and very few crushes happen with people we know well."
"It’s usually something that occurs between people who don’t spend much time together or if they do, the are not exposed to each other in much depth."
"This leaves lots of room for our feelings and wishes to steer how we construct them in our minds and in the absence of evidence to the contrary we push them onto a pedestal and think they are perfect," he said.
Enjoyed privately, but never acted on
No one is perfect, and crushes, while a potentially beautiful and super pleasurable part of life, are transient. They pass in time, and new ones form.
"If I were to say one thing to someone out there who finds themselves in this state with a teacher," Sinisi said, "it would be to say don’t do anything."
"Allow it to remain in the realm of fantasy. Something to be enjoyed privately, but never acted on."
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