Recently, my dear friend Karen, sent me a link to an article in Education Week about… what else, hugs. As I read the article, all I could do was shrug and nod my head. I love when science backs up what I already know with research.
Basically, the researchers found that animals and children’s brain development was drastically improved by nurturing provided by hugs. This is nothing new to anyone who works in a preschool or with young kids. Hugs are the secret weapon in all our tool boxes that can fix almost anything… cut finger? Hug! Hurt feelings? Hug! Dead hamster? Hug! Trouble with big brother? Hug! You name it and a simple hug can help make things better… or at least feel better.
So why do some teachers not give hugs? I couldn’t begin to tell you. I’ve seen and heard of these teachers who refuse hugs… worse yet, those who let a child hug them, but refuse to hug back, either standing their like a dead fish or giving a small pat on the back. As a man, I understand there needs to be a fine line with physical affection and touching in general at school. While I’ve had kids try it, I don’t allow lap sitting or kissing. Trust me, they want to, but I have to draw the line somewhere or I’d risk losing my job and losing all those hugs!
We do go over the rules for hugging. The hugger has to ask, and if I’m standing up, your hands have to be above my waist. The hugee is allowed to say no and the hugger must respect his wishes. When I’m in the middle of giving multi-step directions isn’t the best time for a hug. Usually, instead of saying ‘no’ I just explain ‘Not now, try me in a few minutes.’
When a child asks for a hug, unless I’m in the middle of teaching (and even then I’ve been known to relent), I get down on their level and give them a hug. Sometimes, the hug can be the most important medicine for a child. Other times, it’s the encouragement they need to get through a rough patch. Don’t even get me started on hallway hugs. Former students and even some I’ve never had will come up for a hug in the hallway and you just know it’s a highlight of their day… mine too!
In my book, if you don’t want to hug kids, you shouldn’t really be working with them. For me, the number of hugs offered to me daily is a direct representation of how successful I am as a teacher. Bring on the hugs!