Tales from new teachers

7th March 2014 at 00:00
inappropriate anatomy

The problem

It was my first year of teaching in a private college. I was taking a lesson on genetic disorders and talking about "super female syndrome", where women have three X chromosomes rather than two. One of the girls asked if I could show a picture of a patient suffering this syndrome. I checked the internet and found some pictures. Unfortunately, the search engine brought up pictures of half-naked females alongside the medical images. A group of boys started laughing and asked me to show more pictures like that. One started being crude. It escalated to the point where I got fed up and said: "If you are really curious about your body and the female body, I can explain it to you from tip to toe." The boy looked embarrassed and everyone laughed at him. I felt really guilty. I was upset that I had not controlled myself and had resorted to embarrassing him rather than explaining why his behaviour was inappropriate.

The options

I talked with a female colleague and a friend. They said that I shouldn't worry, my reaction had been appropriate and the boy would overcome his embarrassment. They advised me not to mention the incident again and to try to be more distant.

My head of department disagreed. He said that because I was young and female, the boys probably thought they could be more jokey than they would be normally. He said an explanation of this rather than an attempt to embarrass the particular student would have been more appropriate. He advised me to have a quiet chat with the boy before the next lesson.

The result

I took my head of department's advice and talked to the boy when he was alone. He said that he was really sorry about trying to humiliate me in front of his friends. I told him that I was once his age and understood. I accepted his apology and gave him a homework essay about conduct in class which I made him read out during the next lesson. He used the opportunity to apologise to me publicly.

Having a quiet chat really worked and I am much more careful in my responses to such behaviour now.

The writer is in their first year of teaching in Turkey

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