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I am in my early 30s, unmarried male. I teach engineering at a local university.

Each of my classes have around 30 students. I try to treat everyone fairly. There are of course students who do not want to interact and also who want to over interact, as well as the level headed ones. There's a fair number of female students in my class.

Now there are some female students who become emotionally invested in me, either silently or conspicuously. The silent ones have a hard time in maintaining eye contact with me, which I can live with; even though in my local culture, it is an etiquette to maintain eye contact in a student teacher setting. I am okay with it. This does not bother me much.

What bothers me are attention seeking female students. I can deal with the male ones. But with the female ones, I sometimes feel helpless. There are couple of things that come into play whenever a female student who might be emotionally interested in me tries to seek attention.

  1. It is unprofessional to be uninterested in the most mundane question of a student.

  2. Since that student is female, it is impolite to leave her hanging.

  3. I have never been in any sort of relationship.

I have prioritised career over other seemingly important things in life; however when somebody challenges in a flirting duel I do not back down. I might have in any other scenarios, but it is my class, I do whatever it takes to have the upper hand... in order to maintain control.

Now all of these can be treated as fun and games for me. It might not be for a twenty years old student. I worry how their grades might be affected when they realize that I was only trying to be do my job without any ulterior motives.

So, my question is, is there a way to distance myself emotionally to twenty years old attention-seeking female students without being rude and at the same time trying to maintain control of my class?

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    Hi, this question might be culturally dependent so, can you add a country tag? Can you also tell us what makes you feel that your students are flirting with you? – Ælis Sep 22 '18 at 16:51
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    "when somebody challenges in a flirting duel I do not back down" ... "treated as fun and games for me"... It sounds to me like you are flirting with your students for fun. This is blatantly unprofessional if true. Can you please describe exactly what you and your students do in these "flirting battles" so that there possible answers don't miss-understand. – Jesse Sep 22 '18 at 23:49
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    "Since that student is female, it is impolite to leave her hanging.", is it any less polite to leave a male student waiting for an answer? This is sexist and unnecessary – BKlassen Oct 12 '18 at 17:06
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Stop flirting with your students. It's ridiculously unprofessional, and if anything makes the other students respect you less. On top of that, most educational institutions have policies forbidding sexual relationships between teachers and students. Even if you never take it beyond 'flirting battles', what if someone else in your class reports that you're being unprofessional towards female students?

The best way to deal with flirting students is to remain professional. Ignore any nonverbal flirting. Answer any relevant questions they ask the same way you would if a male student asked them. If they ask personal or inappropriate questions, simply respond with "that's not relevant, let's get back to the topic at hand" or "that's personal, let's get back to the topic at hand". Repeat as needed. This is not rude, it is the best way to lay down a boundary between appropriate and inappropriate behaviour in your classroom. If you respond by flirting back with them, you show your remaining students that you don't have the ability to shut down inappropriate classroom behaviour. That's a good way to lose control of your class.

Some 20-year old women (and men) haven't yet learned how to act around someone they find attractive and have a professional relationship with. Some might even be hoping for favours in exchange for flirting (or more). That means you have to be the adult in the room and be firm and shut down inappropriate conversations and questions immediately.

In my experience, the most important quality as a teacher is to not get provoked by your students. Don't let them dictate your behaviour. This means not engaging in flirting battles, not starting to yell at students who misbehave (you make your opinion of their behaviour clear calmly, without yelling), not letting students shift the classroom discussion to irrelevant topics, and so on. Be the adult in the room.

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    "the most important quality as a teacher is to not get provoked by your students" and "Don't let them dictate your behaviour." which I read as "by letting yourself be provoked you let others dictate your behavior" are really nice insights. Thanks for those. – Heinrich Ody Oct 16 '18 at 19:07
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Student and teacher attraction is harmful to you only. Maintain dignity of education

It's your students' age to love, flirt or be in love. They can do mistakes by behaving like that. But you can not do mistake. You are elder to them. You are serving in college as teacher. It is your responsibility to ignore their irrelevant behavior and concentrate on their academic questions and academic career.

If any wrong thing will happen then you may loose your job as well as reputation. It will not affect to them. It will affect on your career. I know your age gap is not much. But please give priority to your own work and career. These things happen in colleges. Mostly with male professors.

Question

is there a way to distance myself emotionally to twenty years old attention-seeking female students without being rude and at the same time trying to maintain control of my class?

Answer - It is not the matter of rudeness from your side. But it is your responsibility to behave in discipline manner with all students in class. If any female students try to initiate flirting (verbally) then scold them proper manner like parents do. If they try to initiate flirting (non-verbally), then just act as you have not understood it. The female students may attract towards you but you can not because here being a professor/teacher, it will become shameful to you. So be careful and follow above steps. Student and teacher attraction is harmful to you only. So, to maintain dignity of education, it is very necessary to control on yourself.

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