What to Do When Boundaries Get Blurred
(contributed by Stephanie Hughes)


For a First Year Experience class, peer mentors may be responsible for many things. Not only do they have to attend each class, prepare a lesson plan and present it, keep journal entries and also be available to help students with any questions and concerns throughout the semester, but they also need to know where their boundaries lie. Being a peer leader, it's important to understand your role in the classroom and what you're responsible for.

What to do if boundaries get blurred with Students:

There are different types of situations that can occur where the boundaries can be blurred between you and the First Year Experience students. It's important to maintain the boundaries so that you are a helpful peer leader.

Peer leaders are not counselors. It is not your responsibility to have to deal with situations that a trained professional should deal with. If a student comes to you talking about things such as suicide, depression, anxiety, stress, grief, substance abuse, or anything similar, you need to get them in contact with the CCSU Counseling and Wellness department in Marcus White Hall, Room 205. It's important to know that your role as a peer leader is an important one because you can potentially be someone that a student feels comfortable talking to. You should inform a student that you are not qualified to discuss what they're having difficulties with, but reassure them that you will contact Counseling and Wellness and get someone who is qualified, in touch with them. Knowing the boundary of being someone to answer questions about classes or school, vs. being a counselor, is an important part of being a good peer leader.

What to do if boundaries get blurred with your Professor:

Some professors may mistake the role of a FYE peer leader as a personal teaching assistant. It's important to establish an understanding of what your role is as an FYE leader in the beginning of the semester so that both the professor and you understand what your responsibilities are.

Part of being a peer mentor is attending the FYE classes, helping to plan the semester, and also to plan and present a lesson. Peer leaders are not teachers. It is not part of your responsibilities to grade papers or to plan more lesson plans than the required one. Knowing the boundary of peer mentor and teachers assistant is important so that your role in the class is focused more on helping the students rather than helping the professor. If you're being asked to do things like grading assignments or planning more lessons, it may be time to sit down with your professor and go over what exactly your role in the classroom is and what exactly you're comfortable doing. It's a good idea to schedule a meeting in the beginning of the semester to establish what your role will be so that both you and the professor are aware of what your responsibilities are. If you feel throughout the semester that your role is changing into a teacher's assistant rather than a peer leader, it may be a good idea to contact the professor and schedule a meeting to go over your role again. If meeting with the professor doesn't change anything, you could also contact your FYE301 (Peer Leadership Seminar) instructors, who could possibly set up a meeting with your professor to go over the situation. The best idea is to keep open communication between you and the professor so that if you ever feel like boundaries are getting blurred, you have the opportunity to address the situation comfortably.  [For more ideas on how to effectively communicate with your professor, click here.]

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