Does My Prof Have Feelings for Me?

Question: I am a male attending college and I think that one of my female professors has feelings for me. She has asked me to keep in touch with her when the semester is over and has sent other signs that she is interested. However, she has also showed signs that she is not. For instance, I have all A's in her class but she brags about the work of other students in front of the class and never mine. And the other day she canceled an appointment to give me extra help due to an off-campus appointment, but then she provided extra help to another student instead.

My teacher keeps telling me that she not trying to avoid me. My gut feeling tells me otherwise. I have known girls in the past who really liked me but they were too shy or embarrassed to say.

What should I do about this?

It seems to "The Dean" (who has been around the block a few times) that you are on dangerous turf when you discuss whether or not a professor likes you. You may have feelings for this teacher that aren't appropriate and that could get you in trouble--even if these feelings are reciprocated.

It's possible, of course, that this teacher has a special fondness for you and may be ignoring your achievements when she addresses the class because she doesn't want to reveal her interest.

It's also possible (and very, very common) that you have inflated her interest in your own head and have taken every little bit of attention she has given you as a sign that she has special feelings for you, even though she does not.

But, whichever is true, it is critical that you do your best to stop thinking about whether this professor likes you or doesn't like you. Your goal must be to do the best possible work in her class and not dwell on anything else. If you go to a dentist, it doesn't matter if the dentist likes you, as long as she fixes your teeth. If you are taking swimming lessons, your aim is to learn to swim. It may make the experience more pleasant if you enjoy spending time with your teacher, but you are there to stay afloat. So focus on your goal and not on any potential personal relationship.

Once you have finished this class---and if you don't expect to have this teacher for future classes--you can contact her with a friendly email, just saying hello and perhaps telling her how much you enjoyed her class or how much it helped you. Many colleges have rules that forbid faculty members from dating their students, but often these rules apply only to a student who is in the teacher's class (or whom the teacher is advising) at the time. Thus, when you are no longer her student, you can remind her that she asked you to stay in touch after the semester ended, so that's what you're doing.

I suggest that you wait a month or more after the class has ended before you do this. Then you will see how she responds. If she answers in a way that seems to be more than a polite and professional reply, you can next ask her if she wants to meet you for coffee, etc. Don't give a specific time or date just yet ... keep it general. If she writes back and says something like she's very busy or she is going to be traveling, then you should say, "Get in touch when your schedule quiets down." If she is truly interested she will ... even if she's shy. Otherwise, she is sending a message that her relationship with you is not a personal one.

Also, if you plan to pursue this relationship, make sure that she isn't in another one already. If she has a husband or significant other, back away!

But, in the meantime, you must take all your feelings for her "off of the table." If not, you have the potential to do irreparable damage to your own future or to hers.

I hope you understand how important this is.

(posted 7/7/2012)