News Sinead Moriarty

Saturday 30 August 2014

Keep crushes to your diaries, girls, it's not fair on teachers

Published 12/09/2013 | 05:00

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Pippa Middleton's admission caused embarrassment for her former coach.

Schoolgirl crushes on teachers are generally innocent, dreamy events to be discussed with your best friend or indeed your secret diary. But occasionally, they can spiral out of control and turn into dangerous liaisons.

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We all know schoolgirl crushes are common. When you have 600 girls stuck in school all day with nothing to distract them, you can be sure a young male teacher will make waves. Big waves.

But I was still taken aback when I Googled 'crush on a teacher' and over 46 million results popped up. There is even a whole Wikihow page on how to make your teacher have a crush on you.

The page advises schoolgirls to compliment their teacher and always remember to keep up their personal hygiene. Apparently teachers don't go for girls with body odour, bad breath, dirty nails or grubby hair.

This seems like slightly alarming and unnecessary advice for young girls. And while most crushes are innocent enough, some can take a more sinister turn. Let's not forget maths teacher Jeremy Forrest who ran away last year to France with his 15-year-old student.

She claims that it was she who pursued him initially. Forrest (31), who was married at the time of his affair with the schoolgirl, was recently jailed for five-and-a-half years after being convicted of abduction and admitting a further five counts of sexual activity with a child.

Many male teachers in girls' school are now afraid of being accused of wrongdoing and leave their classroom doors open. My own five-year-old daughter has a male teacher who said he cannot hug the children if they are upset as it's just not deemed appropriate anymore.

It's sad to think that we have got to the stage where a male teacher feels too afraid to give a crying five-year-old a cuddle. And yet in this paranoid and litigious world he is right to protect himself.

I've no doubt that many teachers are completely unaware of the crushes formed in their classrooms. You have to wonder how Pippa Middleton's hockey teacher Richard Markham felt when he woke up to find his face plastered all over the media because of his famous former pupil's crush.

When Pippa recently disclosed in an article that she used to fancy the 'undeniably fanciable' Markham, she exposed the poor man to a media storm.

I'm sure Markham, like all upstanding teachers, would have much preferred Pippa to keep her schoolgirl crush to herself and not blab it to the world media.

The poor man is now being subjected to all kinds of unnecessary and unwanted scrutiny. Markham has literally been hauled from his cosy obscurity to be revealed as the object of lust and longing for a young Pippa. To make matters worse, Markham has just started a new position as headmaster of a private school in Hertfordshire.

All new heads of schools hope to make their mark in the first few weeks. They aim to impress and influence students and parents alike with their gravitas and experience. Poor Markham, however, will face titters and sniggers as he starts his new job.

Shouldn't schoolgirl crushes stay in the schoolyard, during schooldays and not be splashed all over the newspapers decades later?

Perhaps I'm being unfair. Having gone to an all-girls convent school where no male teachers were allowed on, or indeed near, the premises there was no one to have a crush on.

Maybe if I'd been taught hockey by a fit young male teacher, I, along with all of my classmates, would have formed a crush on him.

But the issue is not the crush. The issue is that Pippa, herself a victim of some fairly vicious and negative press, would so foolishly and naively land her old teacher in this glare of unwanted attention.

Like Markham, most teachers just want to teach and go home. Crushes make them feel uncomfortable and can be difficult to manage. Teenage girls need to keep their crushes to themselves and if they feel the need to write about it, they should do so in their private diary.

And finally girls, personal hygiene should not just be for the benefit of your teacher, your fellow classmates and your family will appreciate it too.

Irish Independent

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