Faculty Evaluation and Coaching Department
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Professional Boundaries: Setting the Tone

The type of rapport teachers establish in their classroom is as individual as teachers themselves. Establishing rapport is important because if students don't trust you, they will not trust your feedback. As an educator, it is your responsibility to maintain a classroom atmosphere that is comfortable and conducive to learning for all students. Each teacher needs to figure out how to be friendly, respectful and professional with students without violating the boundaries of professionalism.

One of the most common mistakes that new teachers make is to try to be friends with their students. Blurring the role of teacher and friend can lead to difficulty when grading time comes around. At worst, it leads to charges of harassment. (See the Harassment Policy section of the faculty manual).

It is natural for us to like some students more than others, but it is extremely important to be as objective as possible in the classroom. As long as you are in a position to evaluate a student, you should not have a relationship with him or her that can be perceived as personal. Even if you think that you can remain objective in such situations, other students may think that you are not being fair in your evaluation or attention.

Suggestions for keeping relationships with students professional

  • Hold all one-on-one meetings with students in official AAU spaces, where others can see you.
  • Avoid giving out your home phone number.
  • Avoid going to a student's home, or having students come to your own home.
  • Don't share jokes with individual students in class if the whole class does not understand the references.
  • Keep all correspondence with students (e-mail, feedback, phone messages) professional in tone.
  • Avoid commenting on students' clothing or looks.
  • Be aware of students’ sensitivities, especially around issues or traits that may not be immediately apparent (religion, disabilities, gender, politics, or age).
  • If a student makes an overly friendly or sexual advance toward you, clearly state that it is inappropriate and that you cannot become involved in close relationships with students. Notify your director immediately, and follow up if the advances continue.