Making the shift from a college student not much older than the students that are being taught, to a professional teacher, can be a challenging transition for student teachers. It is important not to cross the line and try to be buddies with students because your professional teaching career is what is at stake.
1. Best intentions can be misconstrued.
One of the most serious problems with being buddies with students is that it is simply a lawsuit or at minimum a reprimand just waiting to happen. All too often students or parents will misconstrue the relationship and even if it is well intentioned, you are putting yourself at risk for accusations of improprieties. The potential accusations, true or not, could jeopardize the career that you have spent four years or more preparing for. It simply is not worth the risk.
2. Loss of respect and professionalism.
To act like you are on the same level as your students may gain you some temporary brownie points, but the long term effect is a loss of respect both from the students and staff members. If the intention is to receive a good recommendation or even possibly a teaching position at the school in which you are student teaching, being buddies with students is a poor idea. Supervisory teachers and administration do take note of these things and it may jeopardize your recommendation.
3. It’s not about you.
Usually the reason student teachers and even experienced teachers try to be buddies with their students is that it makes them feel good about themselves. It creates an ego trip and a sense of popularity. As a result being a buddy was about making the student teacher feel good about him/herself rather than the good of the class. The teaching profession is not about the teacher; it is about the student. If decisions are made so the student teacher can give him/herself warm fuzzies, it is a bad idea.
4. Lack of student maturity.
Why does a student want to be buddies with a teacher? It may give the student a sense of status. It is flattering to the students to have a teacher as a buddy. Unfortunately they are adolescents and they are not mature enough to see that it is an unhealthy relationship. It is the responsibility of the student teacher, who is the adult in the situation, to look at the situation professionally. Adolescents just are not all capable of coping with this relationship.
5. Temporary buddies only.
Perhaps a healthy bond is made as buddies while a student teacher is in the system. Unfortunately this is a fleeting relationship. In 12 weeks, you as the student teacher are off to bigger and better things. Where does that leave the students? It leaves a void. It isn’t fair to build a buddy type of relationship with people that you are only in a fleeting relationship with.
6. Creates more hurt.
Eventually some event will occur that will cause the student teacher to have to take disciplinary action. It will hurt the student more and it will feel more like a betrayal when it comes from their perceived “buddy.” If you behave like a professional, the students will understand that the discipline comes from a professional opinion and not a personal problem.
7. You are not their counselor.
All too often student teachers think that the buddy relationship makes them feel more valued and important. They like being students’ confidant or listening to their problems. What if you give a bad piece of advice? You are not a trained counselor. If a student is confiding in the student teacher the way they would a friend and you learn personal information that requires professional intervention, it is important to refer the student to the appropriate staff member rather than counseling him or her yourself.
8. You may not succeed.
Kids can see through a phony from a mile away. The desire to be their buddy may come off as forced and insincere. As a result behind the scenes, students probably will hold you in low regard. Often times this desire to be liked just doesn’t work. Let it come naturally rather than trying to be something your not.
9. Don’t mistake friendly with friend.
It is appropriate to be friendly with students. Greet them at the door. Take an interest in their activities and achievements. Tell them “Good morning’ and ask “How are you today?” This is friendliness. Buddy crosses the line beyond friendliness taking the good intention too far.
10. You are not equals.
If you try to be buddies with your students that equates that you are complete equals with each other. How can you ever be regarded as their teacher if you are their equal? It is more likely that students will try to get away with not turning in assignments, cheating, or misbehavior, largely because the students will believe that they can get away with it with their buddy. Eventually this may not be considered very cool.
Student teachers should not try to be buddies with students. It is wrong on many levels, but it can certainly be a risky choice and why would you gamble with your career.