SOL: Um … a little help here, please?

Jorge’s talking. This is a good thing, of course. When I started this term, I thought he and Nyema would be the toughest students to reach because both were so closed off, so silent and blank-faced.

But suddenly Jorge is talking. For a couple of weeks now. It started after our mid-term conference. He began to give answers readily in class. He started making direct eye contact and laughing at my jokes. These days I could even describe him as an active participant … So what’s my problem?

Yeah. What’s my problem? Tonight I got to work early and went to my office. I turned on the computer and started piling up the books and papers I wanted to carry into class. And then there was Jorge, sneaking up behind me to grab my shoulders and give me a playful little shake. (He’s lucky I didn’t scream bloody murder and jump three feet out of my chair, my usual startle response!)

He backed off right way, and we started talking. He asked about my trip to Chicago and asked some other questions about traveling and about my work at my day job. I brought our work to the classroom and we talked some more.

Please know that this is more talking than I would have imagined having from Jorge in a year of knowing him. And I was happy enough to talk with him … but there was something uncomfortable, too. I don’t see myself sitting alone in the office chatting with him the way I do with Jeovany, the way I would with Billy or Raj if either of them were still coming to school (both have disappeared).

No, Jorge doesn’t scare me, doesn’t make me worry that he’s dangerous or anything … no … it’s just that tonight … well … he seemed to be flirting with me! This is just something so far from the possible, from the acceptable, from the expected. I mean, I am more than old enough to be Jorge’s mother (he’s 17) … and, in some really unfortunate story of ‘tween pregnancies, I could even be old enough to be his grandmother … he should not be flirting with me!

And, really, he’s not. Not intentionally. At least, I don’t think so. More, I get the feeling that he’s trying really hard to be more outgoing and I’m a safe person to talk to in our class … and he doesn’t really know how to talk to girls other than to be flirtatious.

Not that students don’t come on to their teachers. That happened when I taught high school a thousand years ago. I was fairly close to the students’ ages, and they had a hard time seeing the clear line between us. I could laugh off and tease away any overly attentive students simply because I was so close to their ages (still callous enough not to think I was hurting anyone’s feelings, not to think their crushes needed to be taken at all seriously). When I started teaching college and then adult ed, it happened a lot more, but it was easier to deal with then because we were all adults. A lot of times those guys were my age or older, and when they were younger, they weren’t painfully younger, so it was easy enough to handle them the way I would have if I’d met them at a party or a bar.

So maybe it’s not impossible that Jorge actually means to flirt with me, but I really think his behavior tonight was coming more from a place of just not knowing any other way to interact with a woman.

But what do I do with that? A student at my day job commented that it’s up to us, the staff, to teach him the social graces, that he really just didn’t know how to be with people and he needed our help. Well, ok, I guess. I mean, that makes sense to me … but how do I do it? I don’t want to create any uncomfortable situations for myself or for Jorge. I don’t want him to go back to not speaking at all. Most of all, I don’t want to be in any way encouraging, just in case he really is flirting with me!

5 thoughts on “SOL: Um … a little help here, please?

  1. I think this entire situation is why I am more comfortable teaching children than adults (which I have done) and certainly teens. When children get crushes on me it is of the “I wish you were my mom” type that are much easier to deal with. I guess my advice on how to gently guide Jorge towards appropriate behavior would be to do some serious non-verbal body language stuff first — make your body closed off while still listening to him with your mind — if that makes any sense. It’s incredibly delicate, clearly. Keep us posted, please! 🙂

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  2. Lisa

    Hmm…maybe…ask him pointedly which girls his age he is interested in. Talk about that and point him in their direction. Maybe with his lack of social skills he just really doesn’t know where to go and what is appropriate.

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  3. First, the story in itself is a wonderful read, took me back to my work with the challenges.
    As to the “issue” it’s a tricky one. Good to have a place to write and reflect about it. In the world today the stakes are a lot higher. Teachers are living under extra scrutiny so yes, you are the best one to feel the tension in the air and act accordingly.
    Remember, Photo Friday is coming….

    Bonnie

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  4. juliebrock

    I have no clear answer, but perhaps there could be a group lesson about social expectations in different circumstances? I wonder if there is a piece of literature you could use, or a movie to analyze? Not sure if that is helpful, but you will, for sure, find your answer.

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