Dear Miss Emily:

I need help. To start with, I've always had a problem connecting with other people, especially people my own age. I don't know why, but I seem to make the best relationships with adult men. Especially teachers. It's nothing sexual, or even romantic, but I just find it easier to talk with them, over, say, other fourteen/fifteen year-old girls. It hasn't really been an issue so far. I still hang out with teen girls, I just become closer with our teachers than they do. But, quite recently, we've been having this substitute, I'll call him Mr.William, and I think it's going too far. It started with me just hanging out in the classroom with him at lunch. I always had my friend with me, because I understand that people would think it's creepy if I'm alone with him all the time. He's really cool. He's down to earth, honest, not contrived or untrustworthy. He's smart and funny. We are now eating lunch with him every day he subs (which is pretty much EVERY day). Today, my friend and I had one of our other teen girl friends with us while we were hanging out with him and, after school, she took me aside and told me that we're going too far with him. I'm not EXACTLY sure what she meant, as she offered no further explanation. Ellen and I aren't touching him. We're not asking personal questions, or sharing personal information. But I think it's actually about this free pottery class being offered next Saturday in our town. I was planning on going with my dad, but I invited Mr. William to come and he said that he probably would. It's not like anything is going to happen. But, should I be worried? Is it going too far with me seeing him outside of school? I don't just want to stop hanging out with him altogether. I care about him now. I look forward to seeing him, to talking to him. But am I giving him the wrong idea? Should I back off? I'm really afraid that I'll get hurt somehow. Please help. Any
input is appreciated.

----------------Miss Emily's advice-------------

Your letter proves a certain maturity about you, and that is probably one reason why you gravitate to older men rather than your peer group.  But, I think, this teacher of yours represents more than just an appreciation for his wisdom, personality and charm.  He may represent to you everything you want from the opposite sex but fail to see in the gawky teen boy sitting next to you in algebra.  The greater problem is that this teacher is not good at setting boundaries.  Of course, there is nothing wrong with this teacher enjoying the company of his students.  Teachers love enthusiastic students and it's a great temptation to hang out with them but, that said, it doesn't look good.  Yeah, I know, you say it's harmless, but others might not think so and that's the problem.  Rumors can kill careers, and the teaching profession is no exception.  Because you are mature, you should understand that your friend is right.  Your teacher, although flattered by the attention he's getting from you and your friends, should be the one to set the ground rules for the teacher/student relationship -- because, although you are mature in many ways, you fail to see this teacher's job could be in jeopardy if he continues to hang around his wide-eyed, fawning, female students -- no matter how innocent you believe his, and your intentions to be.  In three words:  tone it down.