Sunday, October 12, 2008

If I Hug You, Will I Hurt You? What If I Also Know Your Name?

This is a perfect example of those needing these the most being prevented from getting them. I'm talking about hugs.

I happened upon this video by The Free Hugs Campaign. Based on the real life controversial story of Juan Mann, a man who's sole mission was to reach out and hug strangers to brighten up their lives. (This information was also shared on Twitter, by @toddgilmore recently, which I always like to add is an awesome place to pick up interesting & valuable resources.)

An Interesting Video
As you watch this video (3:39 min.) I'd like to point you in the direction of point 2:18 where a young child, clearly encouraged by a trusted adult, moves in for the hug AND GEE, NOTHING BAD HAPPENED. In fact, I'd venture to guess that the little girl WAS impacted for life. Continue to watch, though as you see the very same behavior evolve as we so often see in our schools.

Is There Evidence Out There?
I recently had the opportunity to SKYPE with Dean Shareski about the fears that pervade our school system to the point where we don't allow our students to benefit from the true value today's world has to offer them. He gave me quite a bit to think about and a few great suggestions for moving some things forward in my district that (might) hit a wall due to unfounded fears. He suggested focusing on the LOCAL success stories. We're working on that currently. But honestly, I don't think that will be enough. When confronted with these concerns he simply asks if there's evidence out there to support these fears.

I think this will help a lot because the same people who make these decisions are the same people who are all about data, aren't they?

And although this post is about hugs, it also is about the unfounded fears in our school systems that prevent constructive and important online resources to be ignored.

An Open Question
So, I'd like to ask this question, "Is there evidence out there to support the fear that teachers hugging their students or allowing students to hug each other has actually resulted in harm?"

Is there evidence out there to support the fear that allowing students (and teachers, for Heaven's sake - Why do we LOCK out teachers too?) access to social networking sites or encouraging to them post information responsibly actually results in harm?

As I try to move some district-wide initiatives forward in the next few months, I need to be armed with all the concrete information I can get.

Got anything?


Anonymous said...

Have you ever been at a staff meeting -- where the admin (or whoever is addressing the meeting) makes a blanket statement to all instead of address the ONE person that really should be talked to? And the person who SHOULD be listening, usually does not realize that they are at fault -- while everyone who is innocent wonders what they did wrong? Or worse than that -- everyone gets punished instead of the 1 who is really at fault.

I think that that is why HUGS are discouraged. Because a few teachers acted inappropriately and everyone else got punished. Because of a possible law suit that a parent might raise because of an inappropriate touch -- all the necessary touches each day are disallowed.

I invite you to visit this website -- and watch the video.

As well as read and

loonyhiker said...

Unfortunately, there were several incidents last year in my state with teachers having inappropriate relationships with students that probably started out with just a hug. The media hypes it up so that it is showcased rather than all the great things that other teachers are doing. There have also been several incidences where a student has made false accusations against a teacher because they were angry and since there was evidence of hugging, the teacher was fired unless the false accusation could be proven. Before I retired, I was willing to take the risk and hugged my sped students often (and added greatly to my hubby's anxiety of impending doom to my career). If I was a young person in the classroom today, I might rethink my actions just to cover myself and not risk my reputation.

Lee said...

I've absolutely sat in staff meetings where I feel like I'm the one being disciplined but it's a few others, or more likely, ONE other. I believe people who do that, are taking the cowardly way out of handling the issues directly. It's terrible for morale and I don't get why managers (including principals) don't get that.

Thank you for the resources. I will check them out.

I see why teachers want to protect themselves and although I'm no different, I've always hugged my students. However, I've always taught elementary students. I can see an issue arising in high school if a student makes a false accusation with a hug as evidence. If there was no hype about hugging being evil, do you think students would use "the hug" as ammunition? Which came first...

In high school, I doubt that real inappropriate relationships begin as hugs. I'd venture to guess that they start out as flirting.

My district has had it's share of scandals as well. A few unfounded but many turned out to be true or simply too "true" to deny. However, I still don't seem to be able to gather evidence that the danger came from appropriately hugging.

Thanks for commenting.

IMC Guy said...

Working in the elementary world, it's a little different than someone working in a secondary school, but I'm still a little reluctant to hug back when a student comes up to hug me. It sucks - kids, especially little ones, need hugs sometimes, and we are told to "be careful." I don't know what we can do.

Kim Bielaczyc said...

I just had a huge issue come up in my 3rd graders classroom. He is a hi-cap student yet emotionally unstable. We have an incredible teacher who has done wonders with him bringing him out of his shell. He is reading at 8-12 grade level and doing prealgebra. He hugs her daily and walks to the bus holding her hand. This is his security blanket. We have told him that next year he has to fly solo. Suddenly the principal sent my teacher an email telling her she has to completely stop being affectionate with him. This sent him into a complete downward spiral this morning and I had to pick him up he was so upset. I agree that this rule should be imposed at a middle and high school level, but are we supposed to teach our young ones to have no compassion or emotion. I am about to wage a war. Anyone who can help me with information would be appreciated. I will be watching this blog. Thanks for being here.

Brent Jones said...

I see nothing wrong with hugs at any age. I'm a 57 year old white man who teaches in Chicago's inner city. My fellow teachers who are black females hug kids--boys and girls--all the time.

Lisa Parisi said...

To Kim,
I would want to know the basis behind the rule. For a third grader to be refused affection is cruel. I use the Responsive Classroom approach in my class and each morning we start the day with a warm handshake. Sometimes the kids come in needing a hug instead and they know they can get one. It makes the rest of the day go so smoothly. See:

Anonymous said...

Any teacher who touches a student these days really opens themselves up for trouble. I have always been a person who was willing to "reach out and touch someone," but now I am much more guarded about what I do. Just a pat on the back or the brush of a hand over an arm can be misinterpreted and used against you. What you think is an innocent act of encouragement can be viewed as inappropriate

I have been a teacher in a high school for the past 26 years and have seen attitudes really change in regards to personal contact.
I would just say, "Be careful out there!"