An unfortunately common theme in shows from the early 2000s is the romanticization of teacher-student relationships. Such media make age gaps a dream worthy trope, even when there is a power play issue at hand. The harmful mindset that tolerating abuse is okay stems from the practice of ‘grooming.’
Grooming occurs when an authoritative figure builds trust with a child, only to later exploit or abuse them physically, emotionally, and psychologically. Although it’s easy to assume that many of our teachers are amazing mentors, we have to be careful about those outliers with dark motives.
The signs of grooming vary from case to case, but we’ve listed a few tell-tale signals to watch out for.
The teacher wants to spend unauthorized time alone
There’s nothing wrong with prioritization of students; for example, tutoring those who need it most. What is problematic is if your teacher invites you to spend time alone with them outside of school for no valid reason.
Some teachers like to treat their classes or groups of students, but it becomes dangerous if they just invite you out to a one-on-one. Spending time alone in an external setting often means that they are not being monitored. It gives predatory teachers the chance to develop a more casual relationship where you end up more dependent on them.
It’s not wrong to have a personal relationship with your teachers, but while you are a student, interactions should be kept strictly academic. If you are to spend time alone with your teacher outside the classroom, make sure your parents or friends know about it.
The teacher keeps giving unnecessary special treatment
Apart from time alone, it can also be dangerous if your teacher treats you too well. Note that this doesn’t mean kamustahans or greetings along the hallway; those are basic school interactions meant to ensure your well-being. On the contrary, it’s getting harmful when your teacher splurges on unnecessary gifts or offers to drop you off at home for no reason.
If there is no particular need for these gestures, that means your teacher is trying to create leverage. This can also be seen in them making inappropriate comments about you specifically, be it about your personality, looks, or other aspects. Preferential treatment can oftentimes be their way of singling you out.
The teacher is a little too nosy
If your teacher keeps asking about your personal life, this may be another way of them trying to groom you. Extracting information on your family background, friendships, and other facets of your day-to-day routine is a predator’s way of attempting to gain leverage over you. They can use this information to their advantage by means of blackmail, which should never be tolerated.
There is a difference, of course, if you personally confide in your teacher because you feel as if you can trust them. It only becomes dangerous when they seem to be a little *too* invested in your life.
The teacher is oddly secretive about interactions
Another red flag is your teacher wanting to keep conversations secretive.For example, if they start contacting you on Messenger, Discord, Telegram or other social media platforms, it is a bit concerning if these are not school-sanctioned or monitored spaces.
Being secretive about interactions is the teachers’ way of trying to erase evidence from school platforms. At the same time, it is their way of trying to make it seem like you have a special relationship with them. This form of manipulation is meant to isolate you, so that they can exploit you later on.
If you feel uncomfortable, don’t hesitate to reach out to family members or friends. Your teachers are supposed to be mentors who make you feel safe, and anything otherwise should be talked about before it’s too late.
If you believe that you or a classmate is being groomed, reach out to your school’s guidance counselor or safe spaces arm immediately. You may also call 163, the Bantay Bata helpline.
Remember: As a student, it is always your right to feel safe.