Dear Dr. G.,
Hi. I have a little problem. I’m a 17 year old female and I kind of fell in love with my teacher. She understood me and was always there for me because I always talked to he after school. And I think about her often and when I was in my other classes I couldn’t get her off my mind. And I started to fail my classes. I am sad because she will be moving to different school. Can you give me advice?
A Lonely Teen
Dear Lonely Teen,
Thank you for writing to me to seek help. I am sure that you are aware that there are boundaries surrounding the teacher student relationship and that this relationship might provide you with a role model, a teacher and some support. It cannot and should not turn into a love relationship for a variety of ethical and other reasons. My guess is that you already know that. Despite that, you developed a deep set of feelings toward this teacher. It feels very wonderful to feel understood and supported and my sense is that these feelings contributed to your crush on this teacher. While it is not unusual to develop a crush on a teacher, coach etc. it is also common to develop feelings of frustration when you realize that this relationship has limitations and boundaries and cannot provide you with the reciprocal relationship that you may desire.
You have probably been very lonely and did and do not have a good enough support group. I am not sure about all of the issues that you have been struggling with but at this point you are clearly dealing with sadness, some obsessional behavior and problems with school performance. I strongly suggest that you speak to your parents or another trusted adult and get into therapy to deal with the issues that you were sharing with your teacher and that you are experiencing as a result of the connection with the teacher.
We all need people in our lives who understand us and who can be available to us. The teacher cannot and is not in a position to meet these needs so it is time to get these needs met elsewhere. My hope is that you will get professional help over the summer and that you will feel better and will be able to concentrate on your classes in the Fall. When our thoughts are elsewhere it is impossible for most of us to be in the moment and focus on the task at hand.
You will need to make peace with the fact that the teacher is moving on and will no longer be available. Take comfort in knowing that you can find support from others. Teachers move on and you will too. You can have gratitude for having found support from this teacher but say good-bye knowing that this relationship will be replaced with other ones that meet a variety of your needs. I wish you luck and hope that you get the help you need to have a good summer and a better school year next year.