Boundaries, physical contact with students, etc.

Discussion in 'General Education' started by Caesar753, Oct 13, 2014.

  1. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2007
    Messages:
    14,468
    Likes Received:
    2,485

    Oct 13, 2014

    When is it okay to make physical contact with students? When it is not okay? Is there a grey area?

    What did you learn about professional boundaries in school and/or your school/district's training program?
     
  2.  
  3. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

    Joined:
    May 8, 2008
    Messages:
    8,312
    Likes Received:
    1,433

    Oct 13, 2014

    Seeing my students is so rare, I usually feel compelled to give them at least a one-armed hug. However, I always ask first and make sure there are other adults around. They all see me as their slightly wacky auntie English teacher, but I'm not putting myself in any kind of situation.
     
  4. 2ndTimeAround

    2ndTimeAround Phenom

    Joined:
    Aug 10, 2010
    Messages:
    4,325
    Likes Received:
    557

    Oct 13, 2014

    I'm in high school and I still get so many kids that want to give me hugs. Some of them I hug and some I tell to keep far away.

    Being a middle-aged woman does have a few perks, it seems!
     
  5. gr3teacher

    gr3teacher Phenom

    Joined:
    Sep 13, 2013
    Messages:
    4,252
    Likes Received:
    791

    Oct 13, 2014

    My school doesn't have official boundaries as far as I know. I keep physical contact to a bare minimum. If a student gives me a hug, I don't turn them away or anything, but I try to make it a one-armed side hug, and I make sure that my hands are visible to any passersby. Other than the occasional pat on the shoulder as a non-verbal cue, I pretty much never initiate physical contact... and even with that, I'd be more likely to just tap a girl's desk rather than her shoulder.

    My college profs drilled home the idea of no physical contact to all the men in my cohort, and it's just stuck with me... and I'm a pretty hands-off type person anyway, so it's not hard to remember.
     
  6. Pashtun

    Pashtun Fanatic

    Joined:
    Jun 17, 2013
    Messages:
    2,985
    Likes Received:
    435

    Oct 13, 2014

    I give high fives, fist bumps, and pats on the shoulder.
     
  7. YoungTeacherGuy

    YoungTeacherGuy Phenom

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2007
    Messages:
    4,223
    Likes Received:
    1,157

    Oct 13, 2014

    As an administrator, I've had to physically remove and/or restrain students.

    As far as other physical contact, I have plenty of kids who want to come up to me for a hug throughout the day. Each and every morning, I greet (with a smile) 600 students as they walk through the gate. Many kids stop to chat, others shake my hand, and quite a few go in for a hug. Thankfully, though, the hugs are in plain sight of everyone who's in the carpool lane!
     
  8. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2010
    Messages:
    4,753
    Likes Received:
    979

    Oct 13, 2014

    We don't have any official rules, I think it's expected that we apply common sense. Meaning, handshakes, high fives, and maybe side hugs are ok, if the teacher is comfortable, but good judgement should be exercised. We have some clingy students who want to get a hug 4-5 times a day, and that's obviously excessive.

    We now have an official rule for students: no handshakes of any kind, no hugs of any kind between any student, male - male, male - female or female - female. This is mostly to avoid any inappropriateness between male and females and to minimize gang-signals and secret handshakes.
    I'm sure handshakes are ok for us teachers, although I don't do that.
     
  9. Mr.history

    Mr.history Cohort

    Joined:
    May 19, 2012
    Messages:
    557
    Likes Received:
    46

    Oct 13, 2014

    I shake hands, high five, pat on shoulder. I don't have kids wanting to hug me usually. I'm clumsy so I also step on feet/bump into them sometimes though. :)
     
  10. i8myhomework

    i8myhomework Comrade

    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2010
    Messages:
    290
    Likes Received:
    0

    Oct 13, 2014

    No official rules. Kids run up and hug me and I hug back. I have also kissed boo boos (by request of course).

    During open house a second grader (formally my student!) came up with his mom and his eight month old sister. With permission I held her and smooched her chubby cheeks!

    Next year I might be moving to fourth, so less hugs are anticipated, but I still won't mind giving a few out when appropriate.

    I'm in elementary, so boundaries when it comes to physical contact has never been brought up. I just use common sense. I would never hug a student if they didn't want me to, or jab their shoulder to get their attention, etc.
     
  11. FourSquare

    FourSquare Fanatic

    Joined:
    Aug 4, 2009
    Messages:
    2,836
    Likes Received:
    314

    Oct 13, 2014

    I used to hug my 3rd graders all the time if they initiated. Now that I'm in middle school, not as much. I do high five/fist bump my kids every day at the door. I have hugged a couple of former students in the office during a difficult day for them. But that was in public.

    It's sad we have to be so careful.
     
  12. otterpop

    otterpop Aficionado

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2013
    Messages:
    3,806
    Likes Received:
    1,406

    Oct 13, 2014

    In elementary (all levels), I give one armed hugs. It's weird to explain but there are some kids I would hug and some I wouldn't. Some kids give off a no hug vibe and obviously I don't want to make anyone uncomfortable. On the other hand, a boy came up to me crying because he'd had his feelings hurt and my first instinct was to give him a hug. So it depends on the kid. I also have a few students who give me hugs goodbye every day. 4th is a grade where half the kids seem like older preteens and half are still in a kid phase.
     
  13. stephenpe

    stephenpe Connoisseur

    Joined:
    Oct 22, 2003
    Messages:
    1,921
    Likes Received:
    144

    Oct 14, 2014

    I have kids that need hugs and many that don't. If they hug me I hug them back. Has worked for over 30 years in elem. for me.
     
  14. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2005
    Messages:
    13,826
    Likes Received:
    1,644

    Oct 14, 2014

    Official stance (from our federation and our professional organization) is hands-off. That said, there are times when not offering a hug or a comforting touch are worse than doing so. If hugging a grieving, overwhelmed or frightened student gets me fired, so be it.

    That said, I am cautious and aware of my surroundings. When I'm with a student, I'm never behind closed doors where I can't be seen (all of our classrooms have big windows into the hall) and, if I can, I let a colleague and/or administration know that I'm talking privately with a student.
     
  15. Pashtun

    Pashtun Fanatic

    Joined:
    Jun 17, 2013
    Messages:
    2,985
    Likes Received:
    435

    Oct 14, 2014

    Very very sad.
     
  16. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

    Joined:
    Aug 25, 2011
    Messages:
    5,770
    Likes Received:
    1,000

    Oct 14, 2014

    I give hand-shakes when they enter. I will sometimes hug kids (or at least stand there and bear it -- not really the huggy type) if they run up to me and hug me in a public place.

    Discretion is necessary in a space where you are alone with the child I believe.

    Nothing was mentioned in our trainings. Just horror stories passed between teachers.
     
  17. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

    Joined:
    May 8, 2008
    Messages:
    8,312
    Likes Received:
    1,433

    Oct 14, 2014

    This is so timely for me! I'm going to see a bunch of my students tonight and on Friday for in-person activities, and I'm completely out of practice for how to handle it. It's hard to explain the novelty of face-to-face contact with students with whom I interact on a daily basis.
     
  18. Koriemo

    Koriemo Comrade

    Joined:
    Aug 11, 2014
    Messages:
    343
    Likes Received:
    15

    Oct 14, 2014

    I'm pretty hands off with my students. I teach at a very friendly, close private school, but I still don't have students trying to give me hugs. On spirit day, I let one of the girls spray my hair red for our school colors. That's as close as I've let them come. I would hug the girls if they came up for a hug. I had a boy goofing off try to give me a hug, but I didn't let him.

    I will briefly pat/tap a shoulder (male or female) affectionately or for attention, but for the most part, I'm hands off.
     
  19. dgpiaffeteach

    dgpiaffeteach Aficionado

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2011
    Messages:
    3,224
    Likes Received:
    146

    Oct 14, 2014

    I'm young. I try and keep all physical contact limited. I will hug my award winners during our assembly when they come up to the stage. Many teachers do that as well. But that's about it.
     
  20. smalltowngal

    smalltowngal Multitudinous

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2007
    Messages:
    17,362
    Likes Received:
    46

    Oct 14, 2014

    In elementary, I would give high-fives, fist bumps, and side hugs at the door when the students came in first thing in the morning. At the middle and high school level there were more high fives. Any hugs from the upper grades were side, one armed hugs with another adult present. During my schooling we were told how careful we had to be when making physical contact with students.
     
  21. YoungTeacherGuy

    YoungTeacherGuy Phenom

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2007
    Messages:
    4,223
    Likes Received:
    1,157

    Oct 14, 2014

    I totally get why we have to be careful. It makes me sad, though.


    The other day as I was standing at the front gate greeting kiddos, a parent said, "I can tell you have a really good relationship with these kids!" That comment really warmed my heart.
     
  22. GemStone

    GemStone Habitué

    Joined:
    Dec 13, 2011
    Messages:
    819
    Likes Received:
    166

    Oct 14, 2014

    Our former AP used to high five all the kids as they came into the building. She was asked to stop it because that can spread the flu or colds quickly. Is that not concerning to you - you shake hands with 19 kids and the 20th gets everyone's germs, for example. I personally never touch kids' hands if I can help it. Too many germs.
     
  23. Pashtun

    Pashtun Fanatic

    Joined:
    Jun 17, 2013
    Messages:
    2,985
    Likes Received:
    435

    Oct 14, 2014

    I personally don't like this topic. Worrying about high fives passing the flu, thinking teachers are pedophiles....horrible.

    Everything starts from a point of negativity and evil.
     
  24. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

    Joined:
    May 8, 2008
    Messages:
    8,312
    Likes Received:
    1,433

    Oct 14, 2014

    Here's a weird twist to the thread! One of my students is going to be at a Family Night the school is hosting, and she asked, "Mrs. Fiddle, is it okay if I snuck up on you and hugged you?" Um, NO, no that is not okay. Introduce yourself and I'll probably hug you back without freaking out.
     
  25. gr3teacher

    gr3teacher Phenom

    Joined:
    Sep 13, 2013
    Messages:
    4,252
    Likes Received:
    791

    Oct 14, 2014

    That's life, and it's the reality we live in. I don't particularly like it either, but what can you do.
     
  26. Pashtun

    Pashtun Fanatic

    Joined:
    Jun 17, 2013
    Messages:
    2,985
    Likes Received:
    435

    Oct 14, 2014

    I think if we want to think of teachers as pedophiles for touching a child on the shoulder, that parents should take more responsibility for knowing their childs teacher. Especially at the elementary level, parents should be in the classroom more often if they are going to go right to thinking sick and inapproriate thoughts about a teacher who gives a high five, fist bump...etc.
     
  27. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

    Joined:
    Aug 25, 2011
    Messages:
    5,770
    Likes Received:
    1,000

    Oct 14, 2014

    Not concerned. I have hand sanitizer at my sink if they're worried about it and they aren't required to shake my hand. Some students do elbow bumps instead.
     
  28. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2007
    Messages:
    5,621
    Likes Received:
    5

    Oct 14, 2014


    Or, from people like my third grade teacher. He was free with hugs and never hesitated to wipe a tear. He also molested several dozen girls over the years until somebody finally had the guts to go to an adult.
     
  29. Pashtun

    Pashtun Fanatic

    Joined:
    Jun 17, 2013
    Messages:
    2,985
    Likes Received:
    435

    Oct 14, 2014

    Right, so some bad seeds, make us see bad seeds in everyone.

    Sick and disgusting.
     
  30. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

    Joined:
    May 13, 2005
    Messages:
    29,633
    Likes Received:
    1,097

    Oct 14, 2014

    Pashtun, blaming the messenger is out of line.
     
  31. dgpiaffeteach

    dgpiaffeteach Aficionado

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2011
    Messages:
    3,224
    Likes Received:
    146

    Oct 14, 2014

    Some people just don't like to be touched by relative strangers. I'm one of those. If I'm crying, hand me a tissue, but please don't hug me. I respect the boundaries that are set in all situations. I would've felt very uncomfortable with a teacher hugging me even if I was distressed.
     
  32. Pashtun

    Pashtun Fanatic

    Joined:
    Jun 17, 2013
    Messages:
    2,985
    Likes Received:
    435

    Oct 14, 2014

    I don't get what you mean. What messenger am I blaming?

    My point is that it is sick and sad that in our society one of our first thoughts about a teacher giving five, patting on the shoulder, etc.. is that the teacher may be a pedophile.

    This to me is a sad state in our society.
     
  33. Go Blue!

    Go Blue! Connoisseur

    Joined:
    Aug 3, 2011
    Messages:
    1,949
    Likes Received:
    16

    Oct 14, 2014

    As a young female teacher, I do not want students hugging or touching me ever. Especially since some of my older male students like to make inappropriate comments/jokes and then their classmates hear these things and run with them. That is how rumors start.
     
  34. Shanoo

    Shanoo Habitué

    Joined:
    Oct 28, 2007
    Messages:
    761
    Likes Received:
    2

    Oct 14, 2014

    I've had students surprise hug me. Twice they have come up on me from behind and hugged me that way. Then, once, a student was showing me his new drivers licence and he hugged me without warning. All of these instances made me very uncomfortable.

    At the same time, I have hugged students. It is always for an appropriate reason (mostly at graduation; once was because the student was in major distress because she found out she was pregnant), in full view and earshot of others (at convocation and the pregnant student was in my classroom while my student-teacher was there) and it is always initiated by the student. I would never touch a student without their express permission - this includes high fives and fist bumps - mostly because *I* don't like being touched, so I'm not going to presume others do.
     
  35. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

    Joined:
    May 13, 2005
    Messages:
    29,633
    Likes Received:
    1,097

    Oct 14, 2014

    What's really sick is that, over the decades, there HAVE been enough documented incidences of supposed adults failing to exercise the self-control that we ought to expect of adults to make the thoughts credible. But that's the reality that we live in - and we live in it not because parents are paranoid nor because little girls make random accusations, but because of bad choices made in the past by those of our colleagues who ought to have known better.

    So it is what it is, and scolding those who remind us that it is what it is misses the point.

    For the record, I don't think that reality has shifted nearly as much as some of the younger members of A to Z think. My elementary school from third grade on, back in the '60s, had what I later realized was a remarkably high male-to-female staff ratio, with the result that I had male teachers in fourth and fifth grades and would have had a male in sixth grade - my sister's sixth-grade teacher, whose sense of humor I adored - had I not been moved to a program elsewhere (where one of my teachers was the guy who'd been my fourth-grade teacher). None of them was in the habit of hugging, and it wasn't because any of the three lacked for personal warmth: it simply wasn't done.
     
  36. kellzy

    kellzy Comrade

    Joined:
    Aug 22, 2013
    Messages:
    322
    Likes Received:
    88

    Oct 14, 2014

    If my third graders initiate, I reciprocate. Actually, it's strange in my school to see a teacher not do this. A few years back we had a first year teacher who wouldn't and we all thought it was weird because our kids come from a rough and low income neighborhood and in many cases the only adult they see all day is the classroom teacher. They need it.
    Fortunately, with a student to staff ratio of 9:1, it's not difficult to make sure another adult always sees what is happening.
     
  37. OhThePlaces

    OhThePlaces Cohort

    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2007
    Messages:
    527
    Likes Received:
    0

    Oct 14, 2014

    Many of my third graders hug me on a daily basis. I don't initiate it, but I'm always happy to give a side-hug.
     
  38. Pashtun

    Pashtun Fanatic

    Joined:
    Jun 17, 2013
    Messages:
    2,985
    Likes Received:
    435

    Oct 14, 2014

    That's part of my point, sad, sick and disgusting.
     
  39. i8myhomework

    i8myhomework Comrade

    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2010
    Messages:
    290
    Likes Received:
    0

    Oct 14, 2014

    Agreed. I'm not naive, but I also don't think if a teacher wipes away a tear or hugs a student that they are also touching their hoohahs on the down low. While it does and has happened, that is definitely not the majority. I honestly think that most teachers have good intentions when comforting a student in an innocent, physical way (a hug, pat on the shoulder).

    It makes me feel bad that there are those types of worries- but that is just the world. In all the ways that most educators are frustrated with teaching, this one I definitely dislike the most. :( But the damage has been done by past teachers who had more interest in hurting children than educating. Now any kind of touching is negative, not positive.

    So depressing.
     
  40. TamaraF

    TamaraF Companion

    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2012
    Messages:
    119
    Likes Received:
    0

    Oct 16, 2014

    I'm not a hugger by nature, but I do hug students who need it. Honestly, I just use common sense. Does this person need a hug? Then yes, I hug them. Did this (female) student just run up to me after a long summer? Hugs! Male students only get hugs when they need one, which is very rare.
     
  41. iteachbx

    iteachbx Enthusiast

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2011
    Messages:
    2,096
    Likes Received:
    1

    Oct 21, 2014

    Then you should probably just avoid touching anything the kids have touched as well...

    I wash my hands just as much as the next person and don't want to be sick just as much as anyone else. We can't give a kid a high five or shake their hand because of germs...well that's just seems really ridiculous to me.
     

Share This Page

Members Online Now

  1. Ima Teacher,
  2. Joyful!
Total: 429 (members: 5, guests: 400, robots: 24)
test