If you thought that all you had to worry about was the creeping encroachment of Common Core standards when you put your kids on the school bus with their sack lunches (where that’s still legal) and their shoebox dioramas, you would be mistaken. Your kids could be getting “shipped” as well.
I had to dig deep on this one, because most of the reliable information on this particular topic can be found only on Tumblr. As I am (relatively) old and therefore do not Tumbl myself, I had to search through public postings to find the answers.
What is “shipping”? Simply put, it is the act of encouraging or fostering relationships between specific students. And it is an act generally undertaken by their teachers. Sometimes it is geared toward busting cliques and pushing students to test their own boundaries. In these cases, teachers might assign group projects to teams or pairs that simply would not gravitate toward each other naturally. And in these cases, I absolutely agree that it is a good idea.
But sometimes the intent is to encourage dating relationships. Seats are rearranged and group projects assigned, but in these cases the teacher’s endgame is making a successful match. Toward that end, any students who are seen as threats to the “ship” might also be moved to keep them from interfering.
My first thought was to breathe a sigh of relief that my children are homeschooled. But then a couple of questions were raised in my mind:
Isn’t teaching students their lessons and helping prepare them for college and the real world enough work? Why undertake matchmaking as well?
What if any one of these teachers dared to mention – even in passing – their faith in Jesus Christ? Everyone would lose their minds. But playing with our kids as if they are puppets is supposed to be accepted?
In the interest of fairness, I sought the point of view of a few teachers who admit to having participated in shipping.
What you are asking is for teachers to not act like normal human beings. You’ve never in your life looked at your friends and thought, ‘Those two should date,’ or, ‘Those two should break up’? Ever? EVER? We spend more time with students than we do with our own families sometimes. You’re asking us to not notice dynamics…
I interrupt here to point out what she isn’t saying: the students involved here are also spending more time with these teachers than they are with their own families as well.
But you also have to understand just how much some kids ask us to be involved in their lives. At the high school level, I have girls approach me all the time for relationship advice. When a girl says, ‘I have a crush on ____, and I want him to ask me out, what should I do?’ I’m going to give her some Dear Abby.
I also spoke to a friend who teaches both junior high and high school and has admitted to shipping in both senses of the word:
With my high schoolers, who were fairly open-minded about who their friends were, it was more like ‘They’re going to date and he’s going to ask her to Prom,’ and it worked. With my middle schoolers it was more to get them to meet new people and get out of their cliques.
And it occurred to me that teachers who ship students are not necessarily the problem. In regards to shipping students for the purpose of building relationships outside of established cliques, they are a benefit. But the teachers who are encouraging romantic relationships between specific students may not be the root of the problem either. Rather, they are a symptom of the real problem: a society that has been conditioned to believe that it is the responsibility of the public school system to raise our children for us.
And I would caution those teachers who do involve themselves in this activity to tread carefully. There is a large difference between giving advice to students who ask for it, and giving advice to students because you have decided that you know who might be best for them regardless of their feelings. Teenagers generally dislike feeling manipulated or controlled, and many come to teachers instead of parents for advice specifically because they feel like their parents are too controlling. Imagine the depth of the betrayal they might feel when confronted with the idea that the very teachers they trusted were involved in manipulating them on such a deeply personal level.