Sunday, February 7, 2010


I have a bad habit of giving too much information to students when they ask me personal questions.

Recently, I was at an elementary school and talking with some 6th grade girls during lunch break. Since it was at a school and with a grade I've taught regularly this past year, they felt comfortable enough to ask more than the usual "Do you have a boyfriend?" question.

For example, they asked about if I'd had been hugged by a guy before, kissed before, when my first kiss was, whether I was living with anyone, if I had plans for marriage in the near future, and the kicker: if I'd ever had sex. @_@;;

I was so surprised by the last question I simply blurted out the truth: an appalled "NO!" (したことないよ!). It's not that I'm a prude or anything (or so I hope), but it's just that I was shocked that sixth graders would even ask such a question.

Since my answer was "no", I don't think it was such a problem that I answered them honestly, but still, I immediately realized that I shouldn't have answered that question at all and probably many of the earlier ones as well. ("Give an inch and they'll take a mile," right?) I mean, it wasn't a big deal to me, but I don't want them getting the mistaken impression it's OK to ask ALTs overly personal (失礼な) questions simply because we're ALTs. It's a matter of maintaining boundaries.

Part of the problem for me is that I feel like the line between "teacher" and "playmate" is quite blurred for ALTs. And because the line is blurred, I tend to treat my students here more like "my WAY kids"--the teens in the church youth group where I served as a counselor--than like the students I taught when I was working as a teacher in Mississauga.

I mean, part of the role of a youth group counselor is to be open about your life with the kids so they can see how God is working in it. And I think the kids get more out of our interactions with them when they feel like they know us and vice-versa. Conversely, in my first (and only) semester working as a teacher at a high school, I was very conscious of maintaining a professional distance and made it a point not to share much personal information because I knew it would be easy to fall into the trap of trying to be "friends" with my students...

Another thing that put me off my guard, I guess, was that I was with elementary students. It's probably not a very accurate image, but I feel like with the ES kids it's more "innocent" curiosity so I don't think twice about answering questions that I probably wouldn't answer coming from JHS students. [Ah, that reminds me, one of the girls asked me "What does it feel like to "like" someone?" which I thought was really cute. But I digress...]

Anyway, apart from recognizing that I need to be a bit more vigilant in establishing/maintaining personal/professional boundaries with students, the conversation also made me realize that growing up in a Christian environment and being a Christian really does actually set you apart from the prevailing culture.

To me it's quite natural to think that sex is something to be saved for marriage. But when I stop and think about it, that's really quite an uncommon value/ideal/belief to hold in today's society.

It's really a shame that I didn't think to say something about that to the students when I answered their question. I would've liked to have at least made them aware that some people actually choose to remain and/or believe in staying chaste until marriage--and that it's not necessarily just something resulting from a lack of interest/opportunity.