Touching Students

Discussion in 'New Teachers' started by Genmai, Oct 21, 2009.

  1. Genmai

    Genmai Companion

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    Oct 21, 2009

    Hey Gang,

    I have a touchy subject here (excuse the pun). The common rule is *never* touch a student no matter what. Being teachers, we aren't robots, and I think it is not unnatural to show light physical affection. But, the threat of lawsuit always hangs in the air for a teacher, and I've been told to never touch a student in any circumstance or even be left alone with a student to avoid any nasty accusations.

    What is your opinion on this?
     
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  3. Securis

    Securis Cohort

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    Oct 21, 2009

    Physical contact with students is something that is very tricky. As you mention, there is always the threat that someone will view an interaction that is totally innocent and make it into something very terrible. In that case, people are presuming the worst to prevent the worst. At least, I'd hope that is their motivation.

    Myself, I receive hugs from elementary children on a daily basis. They nearly tackle me sometimes. I don't think this is avoidable based partly because I am an activity where we have 'fun' and I am one of a very few male teachers. I do my best to make these hugs short and to the side if I can manage it. I never initiate but at the same time I don't feel that avoiding hugs is good either.

    You might want to address the issue with your principal to see what they fell is acceptable contact.
     
  4. Special-t

    Special-t Enthusiast

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    Oct 21, 2009

    I have a few high school students who like to hug - so I've taught them the "church hug" - side to side rather that chest to chest. I've actually reminded them that hugging can be misinterpreted so that's why we hug the way we do. I make it a funny/fun thing instead of a paranoid thing. I'm 48 so I don't really worry about hugging appearing weird. BUT, if I were even 10 years younger, I'd have a strict no hug policy.

    If I were a male teacher I wouldn't hug at all above elementary school. And in elementary, I'd teach all the students a "teacher hug" which is side to side. This is partly because when I worked in elementary, I found many of the students to be very huggie - even when I was a strange substitute teacher. I think it's best to teach them to modify this hugging impulse so they learn not to hug strangers.
     
  5. priyaanka

    priyaanka Rookie

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    Oct 21, 2009

    hey!
    i totally agree with you. very well said.:thumb:
     
  6. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Oct 22, 2009

    I teach secondary, so it doesn't come up nearly as often as with elementary.

    But one of last year's students, who was on the verge of failing out, is now a stellar student. I high five him every time I see him.

    And in times of crisis, all bets are off. Many years ago, we lost a Junior in a car accident.... he saw the tree approaching on the wet road and threw his body over his girlfriend's. She survived. The kids, understandably, were a wreck. I gave a lot of hugs, and did a ton of shoulder rubbing. But even then, it was in a hallway, not a classroom, and it was totally appropriate-- never a hint of anything to report.

    On a typical day, the rule is CYA. Don't give extra help with the door closed. And, if it is one student (particularly of the opposite gender, stand at the board and teach, don't sit next to the student. Always keep the idea of a lawsuit in the back of your mind, and behave as though there's a camera pointed at you. (Hey, it's entirely possible that there IS.)
     
  7. mrs.et

    mrs.et Rookie

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    Oct 22, 2009

    I like the "behave as though there's a camera pointed at you" advice. I think it could be used in a lot of aspects of life.
     
  8. KLSSwimmer

    KLSSwimmer Habitué

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    Oct 22, 2009

    I teach kindergarten, so hugs happen on a daily basis, if not an hourly basis. :) However, kindergarten is a different breed. :lol:
     
  9. rachaelski

    rachaelski Habitué

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    Oct 22, 2009

    my 5th and 6th graders would hug me all the time. In thinking about my behavior now, with 7th and 8th graders, I don't generally touch them besides a high 5 or a fist bump.
     
  10. DizneeTeachR

    DizneeTeachR Virtuoso

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    Oct 22, 2009

    I know as a sub I would get hugged by all levels because most of the kids were so excited to have me as their sub. They would even hug me in the hall!!! I did like the other try to make it short & sweet!!!

    When I interned I got a lot of hugs in the lower el. & then teaching in lower el it was the same thing.

    Just on a funny note is there anything that says something about the kids touching... LOL!! I was pg & the kiddos would always touch my "baby" & say hello!!! It was really cute!!!
     
  11. each1teach1

    each1teach1 Cohort

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    Oct 22, 2009

    I don't have hugging as an issue much, being a high school teacher, but it does come up from time. Being only 23, I'm very cautious. I've had more huggers that were boys than girls, but I don't think their intent was malicious. I just flat out told them "I don't hug little boys" (to which they strongly object that they're not little boys. "All the more reason not to!" When they ask why not, I kind of joke about it "The last thing I need is someone to seem me hugging you and then staring mess. 'Ms. E1T1 gave me a bad grade, but she don't give the boys bad grades. In fact, she always touchin' on them. Mmm-hmmm...." They laugh, but they get it.) I told them I give high fives and some of them like to come up with "secret" handshakes. I give the girls side hugs aka church hugs are teacher hugs and even that is sparingly and only in the hallways when I know I'm under the cameras.
     
  12. lsho

    lsho Rookie

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    Oct 26, 2009

    I feel ya! I worry about where the line is drawn. I teach 7th grade and a lot of my students are very clingy and huggie. Some really want hugs. But after watching one too many bad Lifetime movies about shamed female teachers, I limit my physical interaction to a high five. A high five is very hard to take the wrong way. I should also mention that I am 22. A 22 year old female teacher shouldn't hug a male student (or female for that matter). I have only hugged one student, a female, who was an emotional wreck one day. She was my student last year (I filled a position in April of last year). But even that was in the hallway. It is such a fine line. These days, with camera phones and multimedia messaging, it is like walking on eggshells 24/7. As someone above said about acting like a camera is on you at all times: IT IS! Go to Youtube and type in like "teacher". You'll see teachers loosing it on a class where a student had a camera phone and recorded it. Scary world, ya know?

    Anyway, I totally got off topic!! My advice? High fives, fist bumps, or handshakes are generally safe bets.
     
  13. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    Oct 26, 2009

    During the rare times I see my students during the school year it is rarely more than a hand on the shoulder for a half second. When they finally make it to graduation this spring, I am hugging as many of them as possible!
     
  14. MissCeliaB

    MissCeliaB Aficionado

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    Oct 26, 2009

    I keep getting ninja hugged by some of my students who think it's funny because I cringe. Sometimes I'll put my hand on a student's back if I'm trying to see what's on their computers. We have a class set, and they are set down in the desks, so sometimes I have to lean over a student to be able to see. Putting my hand on their shoulder or back keeps me from falling over onto them!
     
  15. shouldbeasleep

    shouldbeasleep Enthusiast

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    Oct 27, 2009

    I'm not a hugger, but I recognize that some of my students are, so they get a quick hug now and then.

    But mostly I say, "You are violating the zone of safety!" when they get too close.

    And my door is open if there is only one student in my classroom.
     
  16. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    Oct 27, 2009

    One time when I was still subbing, a student I knew well asked me for some tutoring during the second half of lunch. This kid had a minor crush on me, so I was a little wary but agreed as long as we could work in the glass-walled tutoring part of the library with the doors open. Got kicked out of there by a full-time teacher and moved to a classroom where there was another teacher sitting but who said I wasn't interrupting. Not only did the teacher leave me with this student, he shut the stupid door behind him! I cut the tutoring session short soon after that because I was too uncomfortable.
     
  17. amochoa

    amochoa Rookie

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    Dec 19, 2009

    I work at a Catholic elementary, so I understand how difficult it can be. Most of my students like to hug and whatnot. I don't mind giving them hugs but I know for our school we have to be very careful. When a student comes up and hugs me, I don't hug back. I just give a simple pat on the head. I'm not much of a touchy feely person anyway. And most of the time I don't look at them when they hug me. I do this to help protect myself.
     
  18. MrsTeacher2Be

    MrsTeacher2Be Companion

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    Dec 20, 2009

    I work with a lot of teenagers who are truly starved for attention and love a hug or a pat on the back sometimes. I usually have at least 2 or 3 church hugs a day and there are many students who beam with pride if I pat them on the shoulder when they do something well. They are so much more willing to perform academically for you if there is an appropriate level of motherly love. But my "touches" are always very school appropriate and in public. I did have 2 male students that stayed after a couple of times a week this semester, however the door was always open and there were other teachers in and out all the time. Actually, one of the students prides himself on being a bit of a thug and when one of my male co-workers found out he was staying after with me, he started staying late too, just in case I needed him.
     
  19. Hoot Owl

    Hoot Owl Aficionado

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    Dec 21, 2009

    I quit hugging when a rash of head-lice broke out in my room. It's an humlbing experience when you have the nurse check your head for them, thank God, I didn't have any but it sure made me back off.
     
  20. JackTrader

    JackTrader Comrade

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    Dec 21, 2009

    I totally hear ya - I am also a male in my mid-40s, and a substitute at various levels. The lower elementary kids are huggie - with a sub, even! And above elementary I wouldn't hug either.
     
  21. Zelda~*

    Zelda~* Devotee

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    Dec 21, 2009

    I am hugged a lot. I have to teach my kids to ask for hugs, and make sure they know the name of the adult they are hugging. :)

    Sometimes they _need_ a hug, God love 'em.
     
  22. Mrs. K.

    Mrs. K. Enthusiast

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    Dec 22, 2009

    With my seniors, I give a lot of quick arm or back pats during the year, but as they leave the last day of school, they all get hugs or high fives. At graduation the kids process to their seats between a double line of teachers and counselors, and that's a veritable hugfest!
     
  23. MariaMaria

    MariaMaria Rookie

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    Dec 23, 2009

    Most of my experience is with preschoolers, so there is a lot of contact involved--hugging, kids sitting on my lap, helping with getting dressed, in the bathroom, restraining during outbursts etc. However, I have thought a lot about being careful not to cause any issues when I have been with kids who are a bit older, like in first grade. I don't want to cause any issues because I'm used to preschool "rules".
     
  24. MariaMaria

    MariaMaria Rookie

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    I also ask children if they'd like a hug if it seemed they were having a bad day. I should add that I always stressed to the kids who were old enough to understand that they should ask before they hug an adult or child, just because I wouldn't want them to get into an uncomfortable or dangerous situation because I had made them feel they could always have a hug.. I've also been given kisses on the cheek by kids, though I don't ever give them in return.
     
  25. Cerek

    Cerek Aficionado

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    Dec 24, 2009

    As a mid-40's male sub and student teacher, I was always very aware of how any hugs could be misinterpreted. But on the last day of my internship, my first group of 7th graders all came to the front of the class and gave me a huge group hug. It was very flattering that they cared about me so much, but I was still concerned since the students in the front of the group were all female. Fortunately, my female CT was in the room as well and gave me a warm smile. She also got a good laugh because I was looking at her with a "What should I do?" look on my face that, I'm sure, was priceless.

    A few days later, I went back to the school. I had made Thank You cards for each class and took them to my former middle school team members to read to the students. Several of the students saw me in the hallway as I was leaving and, once again, came up and started giving me hugs. I basically did the "church hug" back, but I felt a little wary doing even that.

    I did give a lot of high-fives and fist bumps to my students, especially during my last couple of weeks. I think these are entirely appropriate at any age and are hard to take the wrong way. It shows the students you really care about them as a person and share in the excitement of their achievements.
     
  26. Tasha

    Tasha Phenom

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    Dec 24, 2009

    AMEN!

    I think if I taught middle or high school I would avoid hugs at school.
     
  27. exiled_seagull

    exiled_seagull Rookie

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    Jan 5, 2010

    Actually the youtube dimension is a VERY big issue. In that regard, we all have to be whiter-than-white because after all, people will only ever post the bad things.

    I'm very lucky, my situation is a little more laidback than most, as I'm in a Thai school (semi-international, 21 nationalities but not got international status yet). In that regard I can throw my 4th graders over my shoulder and run around scaring the life out of them if I wish! That said, I do still exercise a certain degree of caution just in case. Hugs are cool, the little-uns enjoy it and it's part of their social development, but past grade 5/6 it's just not worth the risk. Ridiculous really in a caring profession :(
     
  28. exiled_seagull

    exiled_seagull Rookie

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    PS hugs are good for us too! With all the stuff we have to deal with, sometimes a hug from a small-person is what we need to pick us back up!
     
  29. halpey1

    halpey1 Groupie

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    Jan 16, 2010

    I teach Kindergarten and am a man - so my views are probably unique. :D

    I think for some kids and certain ages (K-2 for sure) hugs and touching are just part of the job. Developmentally, the kids NEED it.

    As a man - I'm SUPER sensitive to how this might be perceived so I've developed my own set of rules and boundaries to make sure I cover myself from any bad situations (hopefully).

    In my class the #1 rule for hugging is - you MUST ask before you hug anyone. That goes for me and all the students. I model this and then I hear all day long, "Can I give you a hug?"

    I also explain it is OK to say NO to a hug and many times I hear students saying NO. I also say NO many times (during my math instruction isn't a good time for a hug...).

    I also model appropriate hugging. Being a grown man and having little five-year-olds hug me, I need to explain how to hug ABOVE the waist (I learned that the hard way).

    Besides hugging, there is a LOT of hand holding (literal, not figurative, although there's that too) in my class. Again, we always ask before making any contact.

    I think this is a good rule for ALL teachers, but I know most of my female counterparts (at least in my school) don't do it... I just think it's respectful to ask before you touch someone in any capacity at school. :D
     
  30. ChristyF

    ChristyF Moderator

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    Jan 16, 2010

    I hug my 4th graders pretty often. Most greet me in the morning with a hug, a few round the corner with arms held out already. Most give a quick hug and go, some just about break ribs with a bear hug. I have one little boy who we all think has some form of autism. Most days he'll walk up and lay his head on my shoulder and just stand there for a minute. As part of one of our reading lessons we talked about how smells and tastes can trigger memories. I talked about jelly rolls reminding me of my grandmother and told them about her teaching me how to make them. I got a little teary eyed in the telling. Later, on the way to lunch, one of my "macho" boys who never wants to hug, walked up, hugged me, and whispered that he missed his grandma too. Those hugs mean a lot. I try to be careful with the touching in other ways, but for some of these kids, that hug from me may be the only the hug they get all day. I just can't see giving that up.
     
  31. Toak

    Toak Cohort

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    Jan 24, 2010

    Well I once had to grab a student as she was climbing over desks to hit and punch another - I held onto her and ordered the victim to another classroom.

    I once had a problem where a girl in my classroom was out in the hall, refusing to come in (the principal at this school would not even consider something like that could be a possibility). Another teacher noticed, picked up the girl by her arm, and sat her inside my room. I do not think he should have done that, but going by how the P runs that school,I can understand why he did it. She likely would have blamed him for my failure to get the girl in the classroom to since he walked past.

    For hugging I've never approached a student to hug them, though in poorer schools its impossible to walk down the hall without getting a dozen hugs (I presume most of this children don't get hugs anywhere else, and I would never refuse to return one)
     
  32. busybeeZ

    busybeeZ Rookie

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    Jan 24, 2010

    I absolutely agree. You have to know your age group. If I refused a hug to a sad 5 year old, or a skinned knee 6 year old, I would seem heartless. It just wouldn't be acceptable at my school to NOT hug the kids.

    In fact, I hug, or pat on the back, or tap the head, or pinch the cheek of EVERY single kid in my class at morning line up.

    Also, they have to give me a hug, handshake or high five every day before they go.

    I have even been known to hug parents and other teachers.

    Guess that's what makes me perfect for kindergarten. :rolleyes:

    Oddly enough, I still have the reputation for the cold/tough teacher. :eek: Couldn't be further from the truth. I guess its just because my coworkers are quite a bit older:sorry: then me and more 'grandmotherly'.

    Ah well, can't win em all!
     

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