We all have a line – between what we are comfortable talking about with pupils and what we’re not. I realised long ago, my line is quite a long way passed most peoples – I’m happy to answer any and all intelligent, curious and genuine questions relating to the usually ’embarrasing or taboo’ topics such as sexuality, literal meanings of expletives, body modification, social attitudes etc. There’s very little that I find embarrassing and as long as there’s a genuine interest (and no just a work avoidance tactic) in play I’m happy to answer. If I feel I’m being ‘hazed’ I generally say I’ll tell you that if you like, but come back at break time and we’ll discuss it. That sorts out the real inquiries (and I have actually had some kids come back at break time. My philosophy is that it’s better that I give them a mature, dispassionate explanation than they get a half-truth from a friend or they google it. I realised long ago I’m far more open than a lot of teachers – and it works for me far better than any other approach because I came to teaching from informal youth work and my skills in dealing with young people grew that way.
However – I do have a line. Objective questions are fine, factual discussion is not a problem. My line comes with the personal. I don’t mind discussing my cats, where I went to school and what I watch on TV or what music I like. They all know I live with my best friend (which from a teenage perspective is pretty awesome) , am not married and don’t have any children. I’ll even tell them how old I am if they ask (although usually I make them guess first). So what don’t I tell them? There’s one big thing I’ll never tell them (and would lie to avoid admitting) – I will avoid at all costs answering the question “Miss are you gay?”
So what about everybody else? Where do you draw the line?