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Is It Morally Acceptable For A TEFL Teacher To Date A Student?

Updated: Apr 3, 2019

What are the implications of a budding classroom romance?

Your eyes meet across a dusty chalkboard, or for the more technically advanced classrooms over an iPad that’s whirring into life along with your heart.

He’s handsome and funny, she’s quirky and cute. Your fingers brush as you pass around the class material. Fantastic. If you’re honest this was one of the reasons why you signed up to do the course in the first place. Yes you want to perfect your use of mixed conditionals, I mean who doesn’t ? But wouldn’t it also be nice to meet the person of your dreams whilst mixing it up?

But wait. There’s a fly, or rather a couple, in this love soup. One of the flies is the teacher and the other their student. Does this necessarily spell the end of the romance before it has begun?

Well, to be blunt, whilst the dynamic of the relationship remains the same - e.g. teacher/student - then yes. Let’s suppose you’re a teacher working in a language academy:

We understand that to act morally is to act in a way that you or people in general consider to be right, honest, or acceptable.

Therefore, as a teacher, you, and the colleagues and students around you, know that you have a position of responsibility for your students’ learning and their wellbeing. Encouraging a romance between you and one of the students in your care would disrupt their learning process and most likely that of the other students in the class, which could put you in a vulnerable position.

By that I mean that your position and authority as a teacher will be called into question. Not only will the class that your paramour is in be thrown off balance by your in-school romance but word will get around to your other groups and the other teachers within the academy. And sooner than you’d like, the gossip will get back to your boss, who of course has to consider the paying element of any academy.

“But the student I’m dating is an adult, like me,” you protest.

Well let’s be grateful for that. No irate parents or members of the police force knocking on the door - phew! But if the academy is associated, even once, with a teacher who dates their students then the trust and confidence between all concerned parties is sullied and reputations are ruined. Especially yours. It will be far harder to secure interviews in the future, even with a great-looking CV, when you’re unable to provide a reference from your previous job.

Which leads us to the next stage of this conundrum - what are your long-term

teaching intentions? If you're serious about making a career out of teaching English abroad then you have to consider the impact of a damaged reputation. If this is you, then you are almost certainly better off leaving well alone.

But what if you're a young person enjoying a gap year abroad and earning a little extra pocket money? Perhaps the lure of the mediterrenean man sitting opposite you is

too much and you're not hurting anyone, right?! You'll be back home in a few months anyway.

If, however, you teach one-to-one classes or small private groups off your own bat and love blooms between you and a student then you might not have the weight of an institution bearing down on you, but the arguments above still stand. You will damage your integrity as a professional teacher and if loves young dream disintegrates into a nightmare, you will have lost one of your valued students - and possibly more once word gets around.

As building up your own clientele relies so heavily on recommendation and word of mouth, is an illicit romance really worth the risk of losing that carefully built up client base?

To keep yourself and your students protected, here are some common sense words of advice to bear in mind:

  • Don’t give out your private phone number or email address unless absolutely necessary.

  • Don’t add your students as friends on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter etc.

  • Don’t agree to meet your students outside of the class for a social engagement.

  • If you think that one of your students is developing a crush on you and you haven’t been able to deflect them, speak to your boss about it especially if you find their behaviour threatening in any way. If they are a private student, explain that you can no longer continue teaching them. Don’t put yourself in danger.

And finally, as an excellent and highly valued teacher, your priority is your students’ learning and your role in their learning. Of course, being the object of someone’s adoration is hugely flattering, and even the stoniest heart would be set a-fluttering by that, but often the admiration is not actually for you but for what you represent; a capable and calm presence in the student’s life who is enabling them to progress further with their English language skills. Yes really.

And your students need to be able to do that in your classroom without the distraction of romantic undercurrents and sexual suggestion. Leave them to each other for that!

Or better still, wait until they’ve finished the course, left the academy and your tutelage and then see how the land lies. Maybe the sparks will still ignite away from the classroom.


Have you ever dated a student as a TEFL Teacher? Tell us your stories in the comment section and we might just write a follow-up blog with real-life situations.


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