J2 Content – Perspectives

A varied collection of thoughts on education and parenting

To Hug or Not Hug

I was recently at an inservice for a school district that was held by the Risk Management department. Among the items covered was the topic of hugging students.

The district’s recommendation was that if you must give a student a hug, it should be the sideways, one-arm hug where the only contact is a pat on the back. The inservice leader said the “high five” was preferable and that if a student came and hugged you, you should tell them to give you a high five instead in the future. While I understand the district’s reasons for implementing these guidelines, I found myself disagreeing with them (especially at the elementary level).

Let me preface this by stating that the majority of my teaching career has been spent teaching students in grades K – 3. When I was teaching elementary school, my students hugged me all the time, and I hugged them back. My class was like a family; after all, we did spend 6 or 7 hours a day together for ten months of the year! My students often spent more time with me than their parents. In my classroom, we developed an atmosphere of respect, caring, and appreciating others’ differences. Students felt safe to take risks. And if they needed a hug, I gave them one!

Sometimes that hug from their teacher may be the only hug a child will get all day. Some of my students came from very dysfunctional families – parents may have been in jail, or there may be alcohol and drug abuse in the home. Sometimes the parents are so busy working to provide for their families, that they just don’t have time for their kids or don’t realize a hug was never given.

I believe that all children need to be loved and nurtured, and that the role of the teacher is not just to educate. Often, a teacher takes on various other roles in children’s lives: a nurturer who cares and gives hugs, a mediator/referee between those who are having a disagreement, a cheerleader to provide encouragement and remind them every child that they can do anything as long as they set their mind to it, a counselor when they need guidance or just someone to talk to, and sometimes even a provider for a child who may have come to school without eating breakfast or needing a sweater on a cold day (I know one teacher who bought new shoes for one of her students when they had outgrown their old ones and the family couldn’t afford to buy new ones).

I am a loving, caring teacher. I am proud to say that I hug my students. As a parent, this is the kind of teacher I would want my children to have. All of their best teachers have been “huggers.” My students hug me because they know I care about them. Why wouldn’t this be a characteristic we want in our teachers?

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One Response to “To Hug or Not Hug”

  1. Tim
    on Mar 28th, 2011
    @ 4:34 pm

    Great article. I agree with you. As a man, it’s an extra sensitive subject. I’m sure that many of my elementary students don’t get hugged and/or are sexually abused. They desperately need appropriate affection from a loving father-type figure in their lives. That being said, there are so many idiots out there it’s best to be smart about things. Never be alone with students, and particularly for men, I stick with the one armed quicky hugs. Thanks for sharing.

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