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ESL forum > Techniques and methods in Language Teaching > As a teacher...Is it possible to be īfriends ī with students at school?    

As a teacher...Is it possible to be īfriends ī with students at school?


As a teacher...Is it possible to be īfriends ī with students at school?
Dear Teachers!....

This question has been going around my head for quite a long time and I can īt really figure out the answer......
I īll explain what I mean with this because this situation has made me feel quite frustrated and sad.
I have a group of students (secundary school) which was very good friends with the previous teacher, and when I started classes with them they were reluctant to work with me. Some even answered back in a very rude tone to me for no reason. They would tell her in the corridor, they wanted her back.... This made me feel very nervous and insecure because I never expected something like this! And although I tried to make classes fun, taking games, different activities, even working late to make things attractive for them, they still had the same attitude.  And I feel it īs unfair, because I do worry and try hard for my students to learn and have fun at the same time. This made feel quite sad. I don īt know If you know what I mean with all this?
One day, one student left the class while I was writing on the board..... and another student told me (in a very rude way..shouting) "She told you she was going to talk to the headteacher!!" This was a lie because no-one came to me to ask for permission to go out.. And I īm not deaf! I didn īt say this, I just continued the class... and the next day I went to talk to the headteacher... but He didn īt help me either... So things were left just like that! Next class I said to this girl: īyou can īt go out without permission ī and she basically ignored me when I talked to her!
This situation makes me feel really nervous everytime I go to this class. I realized after a few days, that their problem is not the way I teach, but that their īfriend ī (the other teacher) is not there anymore! and I don īt know what else to do.. becase it īs a problem with my person, for no reason at all!.. Just because and it makes me feel real bad!.

I have a very wonderfull relationship with other groups, (in a different school) but I don īt consider myslef īclose friends with them. ī.

 So I started wondering how can some young teachers become so good friends, go dancing with students, lend them money, (As it happens with this teacher).

What do you think?

Thank you!..

31 May 2009      


First of all let me tell you that I feel sorry for the difficult situation you are in.
You are trying so hard to get everything right yet they don īt give you a chance.

Have you ever confronted this class with what is going on? That īs what I would do, because it would make the situation clearer and might help them to mature and move out of their blockade. It īs a blockade concerning you, but it īs also a blockade in their heads.
This is where you should move in and help them become more mature.

They grieved over a person they were very familiar with and liked very much. That īs 100% legitimate, and I would tell them that. It all boils down to the subject of "loss". Every loss leads to pain and takes a while to heal, even if it īs "only" a beloved teacher.

But hey, you īve got to move on from there. Or rather, they do. Life is going to present them with losses until the day they die, and if they don īt learn to cope with them, to move on, to create new bonds, to develop techniques of dealing with loss, frustration and change of circumstances, they īll be stuck and remain emotionally imbalanced or immature.

This is what you as a teacher might have to show to them. And it might be your chance. Such lessons in life can be very valuable.

Talk to them about it. Maybe talk about losses in general - let them talk about losses they īve experienced or people around them have experienced. I don īt know how old your students are, but even younger ones (that are old enough to be as rude as you described them) should understand.

That īs what I would do. I would ask them which ways of dealing with loss, overcoming loss and adapting to a new situation they can think of and of the advantages it would have for the class to move on in this way.
And I might describe to them quite vividly what might happen if they don īt. Not at all in the sense of threatening hem, but in the sense of showing to them what clinging forever to someone or something that has gone means and what a waste of energy it really is.

In all this I would try NOT to talk about my feelings and not to show them how hurt I am. I would concentrate on my role as THEIR NEW TEACHER , on the chance to teach them and share something with them that is more valuable than English and on what I might be able to trigger in them.

If you continue wondering about "being friends with students", simply ask them about it. Ask them whether they want their teachers to be their friends and whether this sort of friendship truly exists. Ask them where respect comes into it.  Ask them whether the only type of teacher they can respect or even accept is the "friend" type. I talk quite openly about these things with my students.

Some teachers are very close to their students, others remain quite distant and professional, others are somewhere in between. Personally I think that itÂīs really good that students are confronted with all sorts of teachers because itÂīīll teach them to adapt to and deal with all sorts of human beings. Having a mixture of things is much more interesting and educating than being confronted with ONE TYPE all the time.
Personally IÂīm beyond the age of being good friends with my students - they are my childrenÂīs age. What I want to "impress" them with isnÂīt friendship, but competence, concern, a high level and a professional attitude. Sometimes it hurts a bit to see their hearts going out to young teachers, but basically IÂīm quite content with the role I chose.

All this is probably not going to be easy, but not openly discussing what is going on will make things impossible.
Good luck to you and let us know how you īre getting on.

Best regards

31 May 2009     


I think they want to call your attention and they have somehow found you concentrate on their behaviour. Keep on working like you have done and talk about nobody is guilty of changes. You are there to give them your knowledge and if you can become friends later on, it would be wonderful but if not, your goal is they learn what your are teaching. It sounds rude but it is the truth. I have had groups like them and suddenly they change their attitude towards me. You and they need time........ Try to make funny activities and offer them a prize (could be a chocolate, a lollipop or something you see they really like). the activities could group activities like (a hangman, competition between girls and boys making them to practice the structures taught, guessing games and so on)
Hoping my comment could help you.

31 May 2009     

manonski (f)

Are you comfortable with the other teacher? If the students see you with her and interact with her, they may warm up to you. This previous teacher could really help you with this transition.
Also, maybe she had the same problem when she first started with this group. She might have some tips about how she worked out the management problems you īre having now.
I would also have a talk with my students.
As for your question about being friends with your students, well, on this one, I have to say that I don īt want to be friends with them. I am their teacher. It does not mean I am not warm to them or that I don īt like them but my priority is to be a teacher and make them progress in their learning acquisitions. They know that they can come to me if they have a problem but they also know that I īm the adult and they are the students.

31 May 2009     


I agree so much with everything Dorothea wrote. I had a group like that last year and I tried everything you did, QueenJade, and then I got fed up and just decided to confront them the way Dorothea encouraged you to do. It worked with some of them fantastically, some of them at least started paying attention to me with respect, and some of them stayed the same, which eventually made me realize those treated the last teacher the same.
Frankly, I was shocked when you mentioned lending money to students... I agree with manonsky(f). You are a teacher(if we don īt respect that word, who will?)! You are not their friend or their parent. Some kids like to push our buttons, intentionally or not, especially with the īour last teacher ī speech, but you get over it after a while. If you want to be a good teacher, as it is with everything in life, you have to find your own voice and find a way to care about your work and students, not letting it consume you. (I īm one to talk - online on a Sunday afternoon, ha?!)  Unfortunatelly sometimes, with such groups, you feel like the classroom is a battlefield. And you, dear, have to find the wisdom of a good, but firm, queen/king to bring peace to your battlefield, as soon as you can. Don īt give up, and don īt think it īs YOU - it īs never just you, it īs never just them, it īs always everything. Confront them, but don īt wine, and you īll see if they īre up for a compromise or not. Kids, like all of us, are creatures of habit - they were used to that other treatment and they īre fighting for nothing to change. But they are also creatures of order - establish yours and it will get easier in time.  You are the adult in this situation. I īm just telling you things I was saying to myself last year, and they worked. I couldn īt try being nice to the other teacher, because she moved far away and nobody sees her anymore, but I would definitely try it if I were you. That īs good advice from manonski (fr). But don īt beg, don īt ībribe ī, don īt īcry ī - be the teacher!
I think I have a good relationship with most of my students, but I think none of them would ever call me a friend. But when they meet me or introduce me to somebody, they call me the teacher. That īs more than enough for me!

31 May 2009     

Carla Horne
United States


You have been given some wonderful advice. I, too, followed a teacher that was really loved. I agreed with them that she is wonderful and that I miss her, too, because she had more experience with ESOL than I do. However, I tell them that I am there to help them any way that I can to graduate. Yes, I have given lunch money and even bought prom dresses, but my students are truly needy. I really knew them before I went this far. My husband even did a study skills group for the social studies graduation test with them. The bottom line is that you have to give them some time to realize that you really do care and that you īre going to be there for them. Just hang in there!

Carla  Smile

31 May 2009     


Thank you so much for replying to my post! I know it īs a little bit depressing to post something like this! But I thought (as I īve read before how supportive you all are towards teachers all over the world..I thought I might ask for help in this situation).
Dear Dorothe, thank you very much for all you wrote! Manonski (f).... and all of you! It encouraged me to read what you think about this.
I never thought of confronting them with the issue of losses, it is a really good advice! While I read your posts, I thought about it... And I think I never confronted the group because I guess it was such a shocking situation that it made me feel very insecure. And maybe I felt I was not going to be able to cope or solve the problem. I continued with classes, trying to smile and feel in control, even though some days I felt I was actually shaking inside, feeling not good enough for the job!..
I don īt have any personal problems with the previous teacher she is 2 yrs younger than me. I actually talked to her about this problem and she didn īt take it well. She doesn īt see the point that making such a strong bond with students it īs not really good for them. Sometimes, she would tell me students went to her asking her to come back and laughed at it. In a way, I have realized that some teachers like developing this type of relationship with students because we all like to be loved and accepted by students but maybe this is not the way.. I don īt know! 
Students are 17-18. And I īve been teaching for 3 years, I finished the teacher training at uni not long ago. I feel that sometimes, to confront students with these issues is a wonderful thing, I just often feel that the teacher training college doesn īt teach you to deal with so many things we do have to deal at schools.... Of course, we don īt have to be psychologists to have common sense and solve a problem like this, but I feel only years of experience give you tools that are necessary to use with students...

31 May 2009     

manonski (f)

You īre right. We don īt get taught these kinds of problems when we do our course and those are really important issues we have to deal with.
Since your students are practically adult, I īm not sure "confront" would be the right way to go. I īd be having a discussion but I īd try to keep it positive as much as I can.
Also, if the other teacher is not really willing to work with you, the least she good do is not work against you. I īd kindly ask her to support you when they kids go to her and ask her to come back. When she laughs it off, she undermines you and it īs not professional on her part.
Hope you īre able to resolve your situations and remember that you have a place to vent here anytime.

31 May 2009     


I had the same problem last year, a group of intermediate students just rejected me at the first class. They were being taught for the same teacher since they started but she īs only able to teach up to the level they had just left.

She was like a mother to them and they loved her very much. I completely agree with lomasbello and said I was there to help and teach them. Most of students who never had been in my groups are afraid of me because they think I īm very strict, charge responsiblitity, commitment and good behavior in class.

In fact I respect them, do everything I can but I want the same in return and if that doesn īt happen I normally act effectively to make things come back to the way they should be, and I īm not afraid of using authority (not authoritarism - not sure about the spelling and too lazy to check, sorry) if it īs necessary.

After first class they went to talk to the previous teacher and unfortunately she was resented because the director "had taken" her class saying she wasn īt able to teach them anymore. Maybe she thought I was her "enemy", so she supported and agred when they said they had hated me. To make things worse she came to school eartlier the next day to tell me the entire story. I felt sick with her behavior, supporting such immature complaints from the students and went to the director īs room and told her everything that was happening. In my opinion the previous teacherÂīs behavior showed lack of ethyc and messed things up.

I don īt know what the director and her talked before but the second class was a terror and after finishing it I swear I thought firmily about never return there. But I did. And decided to be firm, ignore their acts to provoke me and just do what I know and let things go on. When they complained about something I did or said, comparing me with the previous teacher I just pointed that she was one person and I īm another, but both of us were engaged in giving them the best education and make them show the best they could.

Little by little students started paying attention and even against their willing they started enjoying the classes, learning and asking questions. The previous teacher has a different style of giving classes, the students listen and fill lots of grammar sheets. I started improving their knowledge with games, board games, and I teach with total participation of the ss, I build the information with them and let them discover the most.

They loved the new style and I could see their eyes shinning every time I proposed a brand-new activity. It was a great semester and the other one wasn īt diverse. Their grades got higher and some of them cried when the last class finished.

I never went out with them or lent them money, but I guess they understood I was there to help them and do my best to teach. Now they have another teacher and every Saturday they come to my class for a "fifty-cent talk" (as we call it here in Brazil).

It was hard at the beginning, but since they found out that nothing they could do would change things they relaxed and enjoyed.

Hope my experience can be of some help.

Have a good Sunday.

31 May 2009     


The more authentic we are as human beings and the more open we are even about difficult situations and the less we try to create a picture of someone who is always in command, always on top of things - the more our students will respect us and see us as human beings.
I suppose it takes them ages to look beyond our "function" or role as teachers and realize we īre actually human beings, even if we are authentic, but being authentic certainly speeds up the process ;-)

31 May 2009     


I always had this problem the other way around.
I can tell you that I never was "friends" with my stds but the relationship I wasable to build was very nice and they simply "liked me" more than my style or the way I explained things
I tried to help my colleagues by supporting their decisions and cutting off every nasty comment that was said tome, even on line, since at the time I had a mail and msn account just to chat with them (with specific teaching purposes)
Once I left the school it became worse and the teacher left in place acted all "sentimental" and even cried when she was told they wanted my back saying "Well, Im NOT Veronica"
Bad mistake, in the end she had to leavecause she couldnt take the preassure.
What I would do? Maybe,instead of trying hard to have them like me, do the complete opposite, make my classes stiff and boring and be really strict with them. If at a certain time their attitude should change I would  then create a game and start showing my real me. In fact when I have problems with any group I act that way and once their attitude improves I try to get closer
Dunno if it was much of a help, but it works for me
Hang in there and count on us for whatever

31 May 2009     

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