Why I don’t date students

In my career teaching movement arts for nearly fifteen years and professionally in an academic context for over half that time, I have always considered it standard practice to separate teaching relationships from sexual ones. From my perspective, when someone becomes my student and grants me a position of relative authority as their teacher, they are trusting that I am going to use that power, along with with my relevant knowledge and skills, to serve them and their learning process. They are not granting me consent to use my influence to attempt to establish another type of relationship with them that is focused on meeting my own needs for sexual or emotional intimacy.

Even in cases where there has been mutual interest in exploring something like that together, I have never done so while we still had an ongoing student-teacher relationship. In the vast majority of cases, I chose not to pursue it at all, as there is often a large gap between attraction and the kind of compatibility required to have a positive and fulfilling relationship. In a normal dating context, it’s an elaborate enough ritual to determine whether an initial attraction will lead to something more. When that process is further complicated by pre-existing imbalanced power dynamics, the waters are muddied even further.

In the very small handful of cases where I did consider dating a former student well after our formal teaching relationship had ended, what I found was that once we had reestablished boundaries and formed new dynamics, we were much less compatible than it might have appeared in a context with more clearly defined roles and expectations. While I don’t think it’s completely impossible for a long-term relationship to eventually form between a former teacher and student, my experience is that it’s something that is generally best to avoid.