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Romance between colleagues - your thoughts

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by Sunnyday50, Aug 24, 2019.

  1. Sunnyday50

    Sunnyday50 New commenter

    I'm hoping to get other people's thoughts on a situation which I can't quite get my head around. Bear with me while I explain...

    My cousin is 24 years old and has just finished his second year of his first teaching post at a school where I used to work. He's been very happy there, gets on well with many of his colleagues and has received very positive feedback from his HoD and SLT. At the beginning of last year, a new TA started work at the school. She was aged 20 at the time and was a former student of the school, having studied there to the end of 6th form. Obviously she had left by the time my cousin started working there, but had been taught by other members of staff. She and my cousin got to know each other thanks to running a sports club together, and eventually it turned into a romance around Easter. They didn't broadcast this but it wasn't a secret either, so most of the staff were aware. They are far from being the only couple among the staff, as seems to happen in a lot of schools.

    Earlier this week I went for coffee with a former colleague who still works at the same school, and out of the blue, she told me that I "need to have a word" with my cousin "because he needs to know what people are saying about him going out with that TA". I can't be doing with gossip and I don't see that it's anyone else's business, and said as much to her, but she insisted on telling me that people find it wrong for him to be going out with a former student of the school, she's too young for him (less than a 3 year age gap!), it's not appropriate for him to socialise with her friends who used to go to the school and might have siblings there, it makes people uncomfortable to have her there on staff nights out, they aren't behaving professionally because they're friends with former students of the school (her peers!) on social media and it's against the school rules for staff to friend former students on social media, it's going to affect his professional relationships with colleagues, and so on.

    The situation is a bit blurred, because I do see the potential issues with employing a former student, and why some staff might feel uncomfortable about working with someone they only taught a few years ago, but SLT were presumably aware of this when they hired her and if there are any genuine concerns that's surely for them to deal with. Should people never be able to work at the school where they studied? I've known several teachers who've gone back to their old school, often at a very early stage in their career or during their training, so it's not uncommon.
    I absolutely don't see that my cousin is doing anything wrong - his girlfriend and her friends had already left the school when he started working there so as far as he's concerned she's no different to any of his other colleagues, they've been entirely professional about their relationship while at work, and neither of them really socialise with other staff apart from at specific work events so there's no issue with his colleagues potentially finding themselves on a night out with former students. Yes, both of them are friends with former students on social media - but they're her peers and had all left the school before my cousin started, so for me I really don't see that it's an issue. On the other hand, if it's school policy that staff must not friend former students then does that count even for staff who were not there at the same time as them? I don't want my cousin to get into trouble, but it would seem ludicrous for him to be banned from socialising with people of his age group because they used to go to the school where he now works.

    My initial reaction was that of course I'm not going to talk to my cousin about his relationship, especially based on hearsay from someone in a cafe - it's none of my business and I think it was totally unprofessional of my former colleague to ask me to get involved. On the other hand, if people are saying these things then do I have a duty to tell my cousin? Not with a view to interfering in his relationship, but so that he is not kept in the dark about something which concerns him and which could, rightly or wrongly, affect his professional life. What do people think? Should I say something to him? And is he doing anything which could be seen as inappropriate?
    pepper5 likes this.
  2. pepper5

    pepper5 Star commenter

    Your cousin isn't doing anything inappropriate as his girl friend is over 20 years old.Your cousin and his girlfriend are grown people! They have jobs, vote, pay taxes, and so forth. Let your former colleague get a grip.

    Your former colleague is probably jealous that your cousin is young, happy and enjoying himself and so should he. Who knows?

    I don't think you should say anything to him at this stage. If the SLT are concerned, then they will speak to him soon enough.

    Instead of trying to create conflict where none exists, your colleague should be happy for the couple. Meeting someone in the same profession with the same interests is good and who knows maybe one day they will get married.
    rolysol, bevdex, BelleDuJour and 16 others like this.
  3. HolyMahogany

    HolyMahogany Occasional commenter

    This sounds like some pretty nasty and unprofessional gossip on behalf of your former colleague, who had no business involving you and I feel is just making mischief.
    When this ex pupil joined the school her status changed from 'former pupil' to 'current employee' she has the right to be treated in the same way as any other employee of the school. Of course she also has the same responsibilities as any other member of staff and must conduct herself in the appropriate way. She is perfectly entitled to form friendships and relationships with other staff as long as this is not to the detriment of the pupils. She has the right to have her own friends outside school as long as she understands the need for confidentiality in respect to her job. Likewise your cousin must behave appropriately when meeting her friends, just the same as any member of staff should behave.
    She will not be the first ex pupil to return to work in their old school and I am sure that in this case SLT and her line manager have worked with her to support her with this transition.
    I do not think you should discuss with your cousin anything about professional conduct because he is not behaving unprofessionally. You may need to warn him that there are some people in the staff room who are not to be trusted and have it in for him.
    Perhaps a word with a trusted member of SLT if you think your cousin is being or is at risk of being bullied over this.
    I also have to wonder if your former colleague has an issue with this ex pupil and is acting out of spite towards this young woman.
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2019
    rolysol, hamcguin, Laphroig and 13 others like this.
  4. FrankWolley

    FrankWolley Star commenter

    Agree with post #2.

    Leave well alone...
  5. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    I am sure your input isn't required. Her "friends" and his will be of a similar age and it's impossible that there haven't been snide remarks bandied about on social media. They'll both know there's an undercurrent of animosity because people are so childish and see no reason not to advertise their views these days.

    I've no doubt that the staffroom will be a hotbed of gossip and everybody who ever went there or taught there has an opinion. (Yes, I don't rate educational professionals particularly highly when it comes to adult and sensible conversations regarding relationships. True.)

    Just leave it.
  6. frustum

    frustum Star commenter

    I can't see any problem. They're adults, fairly close in age, and his knowing her has nothing to do with her having been a pupil when he was a teacher. Actually, it may be the case that most people his own age in the area also used to attend the school; you can hardly say he can't have a relationship with any of them, and the boundaries are probably less of a problem with someone who has made the transition to being a member of staff.
    If she has younger friends or siblings still at the school, that's where he needs to be careful, but so does she.

    If anything, perhaps your former colleague needs to "have a word with" those who are gossiping, and who don't seem to have accepted this girl as a colleague - why shouldn't she be at staff nights out?

    If the school has a rule against being friends with former pupils on social media, presumably there should have been some discussion with the TA about this; it seems unreasonable that she should have to lose that connection with her friends, so perhaps it has been agreed that exceptions need to be made where the friendships predate the employment. Maybe that needs communicating to the gossipmongers.
  7. Sunnyday50

    Sunnyday50 New commenter

    Thank you everyone, I'm glad to see you all seem to share my view about this! I was pretty appalled when my former colleague brought it up, especially when she persisted in talking about it after I'd made it clear I didn't want to hear about gossip and had said it was nobody else's business. It was surprising, because I'd always respected this person and had never known her to be a gossip. It did come across more as concern for my cousin, but she definitely wasn't willing to let it go when I said I had no intention of interfering.
    After the new term has started I'll chat with my cousin and put out a few feelers about how things are at work, without mentioning this conversation I've had. If there do seem to be any issues with colleagues then I'll see if it seems like a good idea to mention it then, so he's aware of what people are saying. If he seems to feel like everything is fine then it'll suggest to me that "people saying things" is actually maybe only one or two mean-spirited people and that there is nothing to be concerned about.
  8. Corvuscorax

    Corvuscorax Star commenter

    What a load of rubbish. We are all ex pupils of somewhere or other. Should we all avoid any interaction with any ex pupil?

    It doesn't make the slightest sense, your former colleague is way our of order, your cousin and his girlfriend are completely in the clear, and good luck to them
  9. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    You'd hope a good HT would get the two of them together and wish them well and just given them (they are very young) the nod that, when any of the pupils or anyone outside the workplace, quizzes them on school matters that they say there's a strict ban on talking about school and their jobs are at stake.

    Really amp it up. Just to shut people up. It's the easiest way. And always will be. And always has been.
  10. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    The only action I'd be taking would be breaking off contact with the so called friend. She is clearly a nasty gossip out to cause trouble and so isn't my kind of person. However that bit is up to you.
  11. starlightexpress

    starlightexpress Occasional commenter

    There is nothing inappropriate or unprofessional. Your cousin had no links to this TA when a student. Additionally, the TA is now to be seen purely by her role. She is now a 20 year old TA. If the school had employed her, then they are opening the doors to the interactions colleagues might do.

    If former colleague has genuine concerns then she needs to speak to the HT and not be part of nasty gossip. It’s for the HT to deal with if professionalism or boundaries are blurred.

    It sounds a prime example of how nasty and full of gossip some schools are. It’s again for the HT to put a stop to this sort of culture.
  12. mothorchid

    mothorchid Star commenter

    "It did come across more as concern for my cousin,"
    Yeah, right.
    She needs a firm talking to. Your cousin and his girlfriend need leaving alone by other people. In this I include you (not being nasty - you seem lovely!) Their relationship is their business and no one else's.
    "I'm telling you for your own good" is such a bully's tactic. And in this case it's not even "your" own good, but someone else's.
  13. les25paul

    les25paul Star commenter


    Good luck to them both,
  14. sabram86

    sabram86 Occasional commenter

    I do wonder what goes through some people's minds sometimes.

    If the Bard revived today, he'd have to rewrite Romeo and Juliet to ensure that the Nurse and Father Lawrence didn't aid and abet teenage romance and forced/underage marriage.

    JULIET: Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou under a restraining order?
  15. lucyrose50

    lucyrose50 Occasional commenter

    It sounds very similar to the sort of Year 8 style "Miss, he said that she said that everyone's been saying..." nonsense, where it generally turns out that nobody has said anything if the sort and it's just one person stirring up unnecessary trouble. You should be able to expect better from adult professionals, but maybe some people are more influenced by the students than they realise...
  16. friedgreentomatoes

    friedgreentomatoes Lead commenter

    But she is a member of staff!

    I currently work with four members of staff who used to be students of mine (and there have been at least four others over the years). I have never felt the least bit uncomfortable working with them. There was occasionally a bit of (amusing to me) awkwardness on their part while they got used to calling me by my first name, but it soon vanished!

    And I agree with everyone else, your former colleague is being nasty and ridiculous.
  17. averagedan

    averagedan Occasional commenter

    They're not doing anything wrong.

    Some school staff rooms become rather vicious with gossip about staff by cliques. I've seen it several times and it's normally people with nothing going on in their lives who are just sad and bitter. It's one of the most destructive things to a school.
  18. starlightexpress

    starlightexpress Occasional commenter

    Totally agree. This nasty gossip is likely to feed back the chat with you into the gossip she is clearly heavily involved in.

    If she was professional and of genuine motive she would speak directly to the couple or to the HT. If you take any action, I’d say it would be to report the nasty gossip to the HT. No school needs its own staff contributing to any rumour mill.
    grumpydogwoman likes this.
  19. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    If she was professional, she'd be letting people lead their lives without taking any notice.

    People find partners at work. Fact.
  20. starlightexpress

    starlightexpress Occasional commenter

    It truly is. There are some wonderful people in education, however there are also sadly some of the type described. The best HTs deal with it directly and these nasties either then shape up or ship out. The impact of leaving it to continue can be too great on the wellbeing of others and the focus on, and the importance of all, contributing equally to the job in hand.
    Babycakes77 and averagedan like this.

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