“You’re Well Hot Miss!” Managing Sexual Comments in the Classroom

Unwanted advances

It’s not uncommon for teachers to experience sexual comments and behaviour in the classroom.  NQTs in particular are often targeted with this type of behaviour.  Left unchecked, or even worse, encouraged, it can completely undermine the teacher-pupil relationship.  By following a few ground rules, in most cases it can be quickly nipped in the bud.

Setting the ground rules

It’s important that right from the word go, your students understand that you respect them, and you expect their respect in return.  There are a lot of ways of communicating this, some teachers like to have a formal teacher-pupil charter or contract which outlines acceptable behaviour.  Others like to have an open discussion with their pupils at the beginning of a new term whilst yet others choose simply to reinforce the point as and when deviations occur.  Either way, know what your ground rules are, be they formal or informal, and stick to them.

Being consistent

Once you’ve set the ground rules.  Don’t deviate.  That means not letting slightly inappropriate behaviour slip.  Pick it up.  Every time a student deviates from what you deem appropriate, deal with it even if the deviation seems minor.  This will prevent the problem escalating.  Treat all pupils the same and always treat them with the same respect you expect in return.

Deal with the small stuff before it gets BIG

What starts as jokey comments can rapidly escalate into something far more difficult to handle.  Even if you’re confident that a jokey sexual comment has been made with the most innocent of intentions, nip it in the bud.  It’s incredibly easy for these things to escalate.  Also, if a pupil has a crush on you and you don’t reprimand them for making sexual comments, it is easy for them to interpret this as you reciprocating which in turn can feed the problem.

NEVER reciprocate

Even if you have the next top stand-up comedian in your class and he makes you want to laugh until your sides split, do NOT reciprocate and DON’T laugh.  What’s alright with your mates down the pub certainly isn’t alright in the classroom.  Laughing and joking with any of your pupils about comments of a sexual nature, whether they are about you, another pupil or a celebrity etc sets completely the wrong tone for your class and undermines the pupil-teacher relationship.

What to do if it persists

By being vigilant and refusing to tolerate sexual comments and behaviour from the moment they begin to occur, 99% of this type of behaviour can be easily eradicated from your classroom.  However, there is always the exception to the rule.  If a pupil continually makes inappropriate or sexual comments, it is vital that you escalate it to your head of department or head of pastoral care so that they can take the matter up with the pupil.  If the situation is making it difficult for you to teach the rest of the class or making you feel uncomfortable, you might want to ask for the pupil to be removed from your class temporarily.

Have you experienced sexual comments in the classroom?

Do you have any advice for dealing with this type of inappropriate behaviour?