Hugs are great. I love hugs. Family, friends, loved ones. Fabulous. Students? Not so much…
I’m not exactly sure where you learn it (probably teacher school), but touching a student is something you are taught to avoid. Occasionally there’s a pat on the back here and there. But you can quickly ascertain when that’s ok and when it’s not. Some students you know would flip a gasket if you touched them. Others see you as a surrogate parent and are starving for some kind of contact. And some students are just the huggy type.
I never initiate a hug with a student. But no matter what, some student will try to hug you over the course of your career. You have to figure out how you’re going to deal with it. If you’re not the touchy-feely type (like me), it’s especially awkward.
We’ve all had experience with the unexpected hug from a student. What do you do? They’re hugging you and you’ve got this freaked out look on your face (or at least in your head). You’re really stuck. If you completely reject them it would be horrendous. There are a variety of options…
Finger Tap Hug: As you round your shoulders to avoid as much body to body contact as possible, you tap your fingers on the back of their shoulders.
Hand Shake Hug: If you’re lucky enough to see it coming, you can get your hand in there to shake their’s and the left hand does the finger tap thing.
Sideways: Try to angle your body so it’s the sideways arm around the shoulder with a slight squeeze.
Smelly Hug: Hold your breath and try to employ any of the above options. Some kids just haven’t learned proper hygiene or live in situations where they can’t wash clothes as often as they should. Not much you can do about it, unless you want to have a really uncomfortable conversation with them.
At all costs, avoid any chest to chest contact. I’ve never had a student try that before. It’s ok to explain that you’re not really the hugging type. I have a friend that has the 2 foot rule with her classes. This way they can’t hug her or each other.
But the bottom line is that you have to share your experience with your colleagues. We all have had these awkward experiences and it’s a common denominator amongst all teachers. You will bust a gut at sharing your hug stories. Laughter is how you survive this profession and keep your sanity.