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On Foreign Teacher-Student Relationships

Popularity 15Viewed 10591 times 2014-4-9 23:26 |System category:News| continue, teachers, Foreign, brought, foreign

Something that is often brought up to new male foreign teachers is the rule that teachers should not spend time with students outside of the classroom going to bars, clubs, etc. Many teachers I've met acknowledge the rule, and then continue to just do what they want to do.  I believe that a professional relationship is key in conducting a proper classroom which requires teachers to choose proper times to spend time with their students outside of class. 

As someone who doesn't particularly enjoy going to bars in the first place, there may be some opposing views on what I'm about to say. However, I thought I'd share my view on the issue. 

I believe that there is a clear distinction between what is appropriate and what isn't appropriate for foreign teachers. I think the question that teachers should ask themselves is "Is there a more appropriate time/place for meeting my students?" and "What am I trying to accomplish during this meeting that I can't accomplish during a more reasonable time?" 

For most cases, teachers can get to know their students while still being a positive and authoritative figure during the afternoon in a coffee shop. If teachers say that going out to the bars at 11:30 in the evening with students is "part of their culture" then they are either lying or must not be part of the current or recent education system. The only time that it is appropriate to go to a bar with a teacher is when a large group of staff members are invited to attend and the event is open to anyone to go. If the teacher is going privately, probably he has other intentions. 

That being said, I have met my students at night and I don't think that it is a terrible thing, but you should have a goal in mind for what you want to accomplish. Besides, nighttime provides a more relaxed environment that can sometimes allow students to be outgoing and creative. Just keep the alcohol levels down and you should be good to go. Another good idea is to invite students from both genders so you aren't so suspicious although if you teach in the School of Foreign Languages you may not have any boys in your classes. 

Just one more thing to keep in mind: there are many Chinese women outside of your classes that you can meet. Meet them. Understand that in your classes you are an authority figure. This means to your students, you are instantly someone special so the necessity to establish a professional relationship between you and your students is especially important. 

That's all for now. Tell me what you think in the comments below. Also, I just want to let anyone reading to please look forward to a blog coming soon that I'm really excited about! Stay tuned!

Matthew Manning
www.mattwritenow.com 

(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)


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Reply Report ColinSpeakman 2014-4-10 09:07 (Pending for approval)
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Reply Report voice_cd 2014-4-10 09:25
Thanks for sharing your story here, we have highlighted your blog.
Reply Report teamkrejados 2014-4-10 09:36
Coming from a background of: No fraternizing with students!' and teacher/student sex scandals, you can imagine how poleaxed I felt, coming here where everyone mingles with everyone.
I agree with you: drinking and carousing with students sets a bad example. We can still have fun with students but drinking does not have to be involved.
Nor does the rigid attitude that one must establish a barrier between students and foreign teachers. A huge part of being accepted in Chinese culture is predicated on whether you are 'sincere'. I would find it hard to remain in 'teacher mode' when trying to connect with my students.
Reply Report KIyer 2014-4-10 10:08
there are strict policies for teachers in western countries against inappropriate fraternising with students...
Reply Report MichaelM 2014-4-10 10:13
Matt, I appreciate your view and for addressing this subject. I've taught every age/grade from grade one primary through the MBA candidates at the local university. I've taught over 2,000 classes since I came to China. The 'meeting students in bars' issue is a foregone conclusion. Personally, I just wouldn't even entertain the idea. Nothing good (in my view) can come out of that. Thanks for your insight.
Reply Report thomas.wood 2014-4-10 10:42
I agree with all this Matt.  I teach middle school students so obviously things are a little different.  The way I deal with this is that I think back to my time at school and what would be appropriate behaviour in the UK.  Contact details for example.  I use Weibo to give announcements to my students about English corner and post articles that I think they may find interesting or are related to the topics we are currently working on in class.  I would never dream of giving any student my phone number, let alone my WeChat.

I have seen two of my students in a bar on New Year's Eve which was a bit disturbing as they must be between 15 and 16.  I just said "You didn't see me here, I didn't see you here.  Deal?"  Slightly uncomfortable moment.
Reply Report ColinSpeakman 2014-4-10 15:50
In Chinese education generally, students are most likely to interact with teachers only in the classroom. There is not the same tradition of wide range of extra curricula and co-curricula activities in school. I found many of my Beijing student friends from China never visited key Chinese historic sites with their teachers in school. That would be unthinkable in London school system. I got to know my Economics teacher better at school because he also coached the badminton team.
Reply Report kakafish 2014-4-10 16:34
don't know above rules before reading your blog, in my memory that the realtionship with my foreigner teachers, it is true that our contact are limited in the classroom , so those are the good teachers~~
Reply Report seanboyce88 2014-4-10 16:38
haha, I have been to the pub with the teachers back home in Scotland, that was always fun as you get to know them on a more personal basis and in some ways I respected my teacher more for being a human being. Im not entirely sold on the idea of not meeting them in the bars, I think it also depends entirely on them as people and you as a person. In harbin, there are almost no english speakers except in the bars and some students like to go there to practice...so when I bump into a student in the bars here (again, there is around4 decent bars here, the rest are just crazy nigthclubs) Im not going to ignore them as I too have a social life and going to the bar to relax and hang out with my friends is also a big part of my culture, im not going to sacrifice that due to my students happening to be going to a limited number of bars
Reply Report jiewei798 2014-4-10 22:22
What do you think about when a student invites you to dinner?
Also, when the semester is over and they are no longer your student?
Reply Report ColinSpeakman 2014-4-10 23:55
jiewei798: What do you think about when a student invites you to dinner?
Also, when the semester is over and they are no longer your student?
For my view, these are a bit loaded questions and interesting what Matt would say. The concept that teachers would keep in touch with students after studies/programs is not bad. Many of my FB friends in USA are former students of mine in China going back six to eight years.  For your question, it depends what going out to dinner is assumed to mean?  
Reply Report zangguo 2014-4-11 18:48
I have been teaching in China for 2 years now. From time to time I will eat with students and everyone seems to enjoy that. I write students because there are always  two  three or more students. Never went to bars with them though; it would have felt odd probably!? Openness, friendliness, sincerity and interacting outside of the classroom adds value to teaching in China.
But this "Magic" can also come undone very quickly if one crosses the fine thin line.
Reply Report mattwritenow 2014-4-11 22:23
jiewei798: What do you think about when a student invites you to dinner?
Also, when the semester is over and they are no longer your student?
If a student invites me to dinner I usually tell them I'll think about it and never get back to them or just say that I'm just too busy these days. It may be rude, but it's less awkward than just coming out and saying the truth.

After they graduate then there is a lot more freedom. I think every teacher has a few students that they really get along well with. A teacher should prepare their students to become his or her peer. In that sense, you should be able to go out and do what you like. Just make sure they're graduated because who knows what classes you will teach next semester.
Reply Report mattwritenow 2014-4-11 22:23
teamkrejados: Coming from a background of: No fraternizing with students!' and teacher/student sex scandals, you can imagine how poleaxed I felt, coming here where  ...
Completely agree. Thanks.
Reply Report mattwritenow 2014-4-11 22:24
KIyer: there are strict policies for teachers in western countries against inappropriate fraternising with students...
Those policies do loosen up the older the student is. In graduate school I had more chances to see my teachers outside of the classroom, but it was still very professional.
Reply Report mattwritenow 2014-4-11 22:26
thomas.wood: I agree with all this Matt.  I teach middle school students so obviously things are a little different.  The way I deal with this is that I think back ...
Strange to think of kids in middle schools going to bars. The closest I got was sneaking some of my parents peach schnapps with some friends of mine when my parents were out. It has to be strange to see students that young at the bar. I'm sure I don't want to know how old the people are who are talking to them.
Reply Report mattwritenow 2014-4-11 22:27
kakafish: don't know above rules before reading your blog, in my memory that the realtionship with my foreigner teachers, it is true that our contact are limite ...
During my upbringing, I often heard people say that you shouldn't marry the person you meet in the bar. Although I don't really agree with it entirely, I think there is some value in the statement.
Reply Report mattwritenow 2014-4-11 22:27
MichaelM: Matt, I appreciate your view and for addressing this subject. I've taught every age/grade from grade one primary through the MBA candidates at the loc ...
Thanks for saying that and thanks for reading!
Reply Report thomas.wood 2014-4-13 07:43
mattwritenow: Strange to think of kids in middle schools going to bars. The closest I got was sneaking some of my parents peach schnapps with some friends of mine w ...
I think they probably stuck together, but I'm not sure.  In China I think there might be a legal limit on the age that you can buy alcohol, but I doubt it's ever enforced.  Whereas in the UK you can get your alcohol license suspended for selling alcohol to minors, I doubt this ever happens in China.  In the UK this means people will ask for your ID and be very strict about it.  In China I assume if there is a law it's rarely enforced and people will just sell alcohol to anyone and think of the money.
Reply Report PatrickInBeijin 2014-4-13 11:50
Whether you socialize with your students depends on  your intentions.  If you are looking for sexual relationships, it is better to look elsewhere.  I am older and generally more grandfatherly to my students.  We do sometimes have meals together.  I don't invite them to my room.  But, I have traveled with students and enjoyed it.  Again, age may make a difference in how they view me.  A number of my students have become friends.  It is a blessing and one of the reasons I love living in China.  But I am pretty careful about what I do and with who.  I have never dated a student.  If you are thinking about dating your students, one thing you should keep in mind.  There are no secrets in college.  Your sweetheart will only tell their best friend and maybe a roommate or two, who will only tell their boy/girlfriends and a roommate or three, and eventually everyone who cares about it is discussing it.  I have had several oblivious colleagues who never realized how much people were talking (by the time it gets to me, it is general knowledge)! And most people don't talk kindly.

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  • The Stories behind Some American Rituals 2017-8-20 20:48

    Interesting well done.

  • Americans Don’t Like Chinese Cultural Rules 2016-12-30 21:34

    Hi, Matthew, after reading your seemingly insightful blog, I can't help but ask:
    1. What make you draw the conclusion that the Chinese people all carry their family problems around as their own?
    2. why do you think that financial gains are the ultimate goal of all Chinese people? And what is wrong with being a good employee?
    3. Who do you think are dictating Chinese people's behaviors?
    To be honest with you, it is pretty easy to pick apart your argument about culture differences, as you appear not to have personally mingled with Chinese people as much, and the diversity of Chinese society has apparently escaped your observation.
    And I am sure it is inappropriate to assume that you epitomize American culture, otherwise, your bluntness and haphazardness in making remarks about culture would prompt me to declare: I (not Chinese people) don't like American culture.

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