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I Can't Tell If My Teacher Is Hitting On Me or Not

My photography teacher has been making me really uncomfortable lately, but I can't tell if I'm the problem or not.

I noticed at the start of the year that he was sort of an awkward speaker when he addressed the whole class, but then would suddenly have these really smoothly flowing conversations -- but only with female students. He talks in what I would call a "flirty tone" and says things like "Oh, I haven't seen you in my class recently, are you avoiding me?" but it's like a joke, it just sounds more like he's hitting on them. He only sits by female students, has conversations with them, sometimes they teach him words in their language (most of my classmates in that class are Somali) and he always plays along and talks to them like peers.

Enter me! It's important to note that I am transgender (FtM) but my name in the school database is my chosen name. I'm fairly good at the class, I take it pretty seriously because I want to go into film, and I've taken some pictures I'm very proud of. It's also good to know that I never ever take my pictures in class, I do them all outside because I want the challenge. He praises my work a lot, and I was really glad about it because I was trying some new things and challenging myself. But I noticed, now that I turned 18 (fairly recently) I've started feeling really uncomfortable in his class.

It all started when I was reading in his class; he usually has the lights off so people can work on lighting in the back but it's bright enough with the windows that you can definitely read no problem. I was minding my business, and all of a sudden there's bright light and I turned, and he's setting up a photography light near me. He says it's so that I can read with the light on, and I thank him profusely because it was really a lot of trouble to set it up and that's very kind, and then he let me be. While I was reading, I heard him say to another student "Oh, don't move that light, she's reading" which I thought was weird because he has never misgendered me before. When the bell rings, he comes to my desk and I thank him again, and he says that if I'm going to read in his class, I should try to sit by a light so I don't hurt my eyes. I was sort of weirded out -- especially because he has no problem with us being on the computers with the lights off -- and upset that he lectured me, so I skipped for the next few days out of spite. He has a really strict late policy, but when I came back for a couple of days he told me not to worry about any of the deadlines.

Just last night, at 1am, I sent him a photo for review. I know it was late, but I was working on a bunch of other assignments. I just wanted to know if I needed to crop the photo before I edited it, and I apologized for the late time. I told him that I took the picture during rush hour from my car. He emails back and says it's fine, but adds "Make sure to be safe tho, I don't want one of my projects to cause an accident. :wink:" and I felt like the winky face really crossed a line for me and it makes me really really uncomfortable that he said that.

I've been skipping his class for the last two days and my mom is really mad, and I tried to explain to my dad why I've been skipping but he says he doesn't care why I'm skipping because I'm going to graduate so missing some class doesn't matter. I'm getting worried, I don't have any friends in that class so I look like a loner, and I'm scared he'll think I'm a vulnerable target because I'm isolated -- I don't think he's going to do anything but the idea that he has the power to really freaks me out.

A coworker of mine and two friends said he's creepy, but my dad's response was really disheartening and long story short, I'm just really freaked out about going to class and I'm super uncomfortable. Am I taking the situation wrong?
Reply 1
This is all in your head, he's not hitting on you and he's not flirting with you.
Two reasons why I don't think he's hitting on you.

First, I don't think you've actually given any example of him doing anything that may constitute him becoming overly intimate or crossing a line. Him setting up the light is just a nice thing to do, and not applying any sort of sanction for not attending just sounds to me like good, practical teaching. The only example you have that gets anywhere near this is the smilie, but in and of itself there's simply no reason in my view to look at that as inappropriate. In fact, you give a lot of examples of things that he's done that have annoyed you, so I'm not sure why the question is even raised of him hitting on you. I just don't see it.

Second, what is obvious here is that you have a tendency to massively overreact to quite normal things. Him suggesting that you sit closer to the late is just perfectly normal advice. It didn't sound like he was lecturing you to me, albeit I wasn't there, but even if he was it's not a normal or reasonable reaction to just not to go to the class for the next few days out of spite. That's fine as an isolated incident, but then you've done it again because of the smilie. Again, that's just not reasonable. I entirely understand why he would write something like that given that he just found out that you were taking pictures in a moving vehicle. But even if you thought the tone was a little off, deciding to not go to the class as a result isn't a rational reaction.

So yeah, I don't see any reason for concern here at all, and I don't see any red flags here at all. I genuinely think without something more than the issue is the way you're interpreting these things and reacting to them, not anything that he's doing wrong.

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