Can I Befriend My Teacher?
Papi, I'm a teacher's pet, but I don't want to be inappropriate!
This column is for paid subscribers to ¡Hola Papi! As a paid subscriber, you can read all the columns, leave comments, and send me a letter with a better chance of being answered! Either leave it in the comments or send it to firstname.lastname@example.org and note up top you are a paid subscriber.
I am in my final year of college (British pre-university college, so the general age range is 16-19) and am dreading the thought of saying goodbye to my favorite teacher. He’s funny, charming, super easy to talk to, and I love talking about films with him (he has a doctorate in film and is very passionate about how Batman and Robin was unfairly hated because of implicit homophobia of audiences and critics). He’s only 10 years older (maybe slightly less?) than me, but if we were classmates I know we’d be inseparable best friends.
Is it weird to want to stay in touch with him? I don’t know if that would cross some kind of personal or professional boundary, but he’s just the greatest guy, and it really bums me out to think one of the people I feel most understood and seen by could be exiting my life.
I should also mention that I have stayed in touch with two particularly impactful teachers before, but lost contact with both after their work email addresses were no longer valid. It genuinely breaks my heart that I probably won’t ever see either of them again, and can’t deal with another important mentor-type figure in my life getting lost in the metaphorical abyss.
Any help would be much appreciated.
Hey there, TP!
I’m going to say… yes? Absolutely. You can keep in touch with a teacher you really like. In my experience, this was actually quite common. I mean, I guess my high school was sort of “barely a school.” I was driving my yearbook teacher’s car to Subway and picking up a meatball sub for her and using her card to get a sandwich for myself. But everyone has their own story.
You can just tell your teacher that you really enjoyed his class and your discussions, and you’d like to continue them, and then ask what the best way to keep in touch is. Some of my favorite relationships in life have been with teachers, professors, and older coworkers. I worked at a bookstore and was often paired up in my shifts with a woman forty years my senior, and we were complete and total besties. I’d show up to work and be like “wait, where’s Nora?”
Which is to say, you shouldn’t feel awkward about it. When you think about what teachers do, and the roles they play in our lives, it makes complete sense why they can come to feel so special. It’s a chaotic, confusing life, TP! People who guide us and show us the way, people who bring out our potential and equip us with the tools we need to move forward, those people are important. Of course we would want to maintain a connection with them.
All of that is pretty straightforward, at least in my mind. But I also find your reluctance and anxiety here to be really interesting. If it’s alright with you, I’d like to use it as a springboard to delve into a more complicated conversation, one that’s really taken social media by storm in recent years: power dynamics and relationships.