Last Fall, when my blog was discovered by The Powers That Be, in a frantic frenzy, I deleted all the posts from my first year in kindergarten. This week, as I rest my mind and soul for a week, I’m revisiting some of those old posts. As all good authors do, I’ve revisited and revised some of them. If you’re new to the blog, they’ll be new to you, if you’ve been with me since the get go, you’ve probably already read them, but maybe my revisions will give them a facelift… who doesn’t relish a fresh coat of paint. Enjoy.
Hugs. What other job lets you get, on average, forty to fifty hugs a day?
Everyone says teachers don’t get paid enough (we don’t, but that’s a story for another day), but what we don’t get in cash is made up for in hugs. At least, that’s how it is if you teach kindergarten. Some children, like Sage are constant huggers. He’s what I’ve begun referring to (only in my head) as a ‘Velcro boy’ – that is, he always seems attached to me in some way. Other students, like Nathan, don’t dole the hugs out so often. Like a rare treasure, he saves his hugs for when he really wants to express his affection or really feels the pangs of missing me over a long weekend or extended break from school. I cherish both kinds equally because any hug is truly something to relish.
For my little friends, hugging is the ultimate show of affection. Some fellow teachers have told me that they don’t like being hugged, and they certainly don’t allow kids to hug each other. I’ve heard it may cause issues with personal space and can lead to rough housing. But I say, with the correct modeling and expectations, bring it on!
Kids need to be shown how to give and receive them appropriately. Toward the beginning of the school year, I took the time to explain and model proper hugging with a willing volunteer—though believe me, they were all willing. First and foremost: always ask for a hug before you give one. “May I give you a hug?” became the most-repeated question around the classroom.
I also explained that there are certain times—say, when I’m in the middle of teaching a math lesson or talking to another adult…or when I’m just feeling crabby—when a person can respond, “No, thank you, not right now.” This lesson stuck, and I often heard kids declining hugs from their classmates—especially when their parents were there to pick them up. Apparently, it’s the same whether you’re five or twenty-five: nobody wants a PDA in front of Mom.
Most of the time, when a student asks me for a hug, if the timing is appropriate, I accept it. And believe me, they want to hug me a lot. I get the most hug requests after I’ve spoken to them firmly or on the rare (yes, rare!) occasion when I’ve need to raise my voice. Sensing that I’m upset, I suppose, the kids suddenly want to run over and hug me. Sometimes I stop to wonder why—do I remind them of their parents? Do I scare them? Do they not like seeing me upset—but then I just tell myself to stop analyzing and just enjoy it.
The end of our day, when the buses come, is premium hug time. Realizing they won’t see their friends or teacher until tomorrow, the kids cling to one another, getting in enough hugs to last them until the next day. Fridays, of course, are especially crazy and in the fervor, once, Sonya bypassed the formalities and grabbed my leg—and in doing so, basically violated me. I knew she didn’t mean to, and I know the look on my face probably didn’t make sense to her. But that brought up another very important lesson about hugging: the arms must always land above the waist.
As I explained this quietly and gently to Sonya, Elizabeth, behind her on the line for the bus, stepped in to show her how to do it. Oh, Elizabeth—she liked to model correct behavior almost as much as I do. When she was done, Sonya asked if she could try again and did so successfully. I looked at it as a teachable moment. Now that Sonya knew the way to correctly hug me, she looked to practice as much as possible. For my little friends, hugging is the ultimate show of affection. A smile is nice, a picture a gift to cherish, but a good tight hug really lets you know how someone feels about you.
Sonya still visits me for a hug almost daily. I never get tired of her smile or her wonderful hugs.