Heinous or Harmless – Affectionate Teacher

Yesterday I saw this tweet:

I was asked for my opinion, and have yet to give it. Apparently the children were around seven or eight years old.

I am not sure how I feel. What are your thoughts? Is it appropriate for a teacher to hug your child at this age? Is it no big deal? Is it an invasion of the children’s space, especially if they didn’t seek out the affection themselves?

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19 Comments

  1. shorty says:

    a hug is one thing, but touching the cheek, or kissing, i don’t know. i think that might be crossing a line.
    As far as teachers hugging generally, these days, there is so much accusation, i think it is safer for teachers to not hug, even though they mean it in the nicest of ways. THe kid might not mind, but the parents might be more angry, or if the kid gets a bad grade one day, or gets punished in class for some reason, they can use the hug as amunition. Its sad but it can (and probably does happen).
    Now this is all pretty general, but i know in the frum world, touching is a lot more serious.

  2. Rafi G. says:

    tough question. used to be acceptable. today it is not acceptable, but sorely lacking – kids dont feel that personal love and connection of the teacher..

    this teacher might be innocently doing it (I hope), but others might use it as a cover to get their high..

    safer in todays world to avoid it. Its a shame though

  3. Mark says:

    I think it’s harmless … HOWEVER, the teacher needs to quickly figure out which kids like that kind of interaction and which ones do not, and refrain from touching those that do not. This has to be done instinctively and in a way that doesn’t “single out” particular children with less affection as affection can be demonstrated in non-physical ways as well. Finally, at a certain age, it simply is not at all appropriate except in rare circumstances such as if a kid gets hurt and is crying and needs a hug or a shoulder to cry on briefly. Now what age to cease physical contact is arguable, but it probably is about Kindergarten or 1′st grade (around age 6-7 or so) for most kids.

  4. tovs1126 says:

    is it a female teacher and female students? mixed? male teacher..etc?

  5. I’m a teacher and a I hug my students all the time. You have to of course gauge which ones don’t want to be hugged, but high schoolers usually make that pretty obvious. Especially working in an area with a lot of challenges, I found that sometimes the hug they got from me was the only one the kid was going to get during the day and that made it even more important. The kiss on the cheek thing I think depends on where you are. Right now, I’m in Miami and given the heavy Latino population, kissing on the cheek to say hello or goodbye is pretty common, so even my students and I would do that sometimes. No one thinks anything of it. In another situation it would be weird, though. It’s all context dependent.

  6. Laura says:

    I taught nursery and kindergarten for a few years and I hugged the kids often; and I’m not even a ‘huggy’ type of person. I think “Jewish Journey” has it right – its all about context. Not everything in this world can be regulated with a bunch of rules. The slimebags clearly don’t follow the rules, and the good people don’t need them. Touch is an important part of the way people interact.

  7. pam siegel zarte says:

    My daughter went to a Montessori pre school and kindergarten. The children were taught to knock on the door which was then opened by one of the teachers sitting in a low chair. They then said good morning ,shook hands, and entered. I have never forgotten how appropriate that seemed. I’m thinking that kissing and hugging are probably not a good idea,but the question remains “What kind of school was being observed?”. It’s possible that there were any number of benign explanations for why the children were greeted that way.

  8. Like tovs1126 and JewishJourney, I’m also curious about the context. It would definitely make a difference. In general, I’d like to assume that it’s harmless, but in this day and age I’d say that it’s risky for a teacher to engage in any physical contact (which is a shame, because what a benefit it could have!!).

  9. sheldan says:

    I would vote for harmless unless there is more to it than that. However, I have to agree, sadly, in this day and age it might be better not to have physical contact with students–I am also in education and I remember warnings about this.

  10. Z! says:

    How many of you remember being hugged by teachers?

  11. J says:

    Many years ago I went to non-Jewish primary and high schools (no Jewish schools where Igrew up, only cheder).
    There was strict discipline. Teachers did not touch pupils in any way, (except for caning)
    Sit silent in classroom.You had to stand up to talk to a teacher or if one came in the room.
    Walk silent in single file in the corridor.
    TG I had a lot of love and hugs and kisses at home.

  12. Rafi G. says:

    while perhaps in some communities the kids dont get much love at home, and we think that at least they should see some love and caring in school, it really isnt the place for it. School is for the education, and the home is for the emotional coddling. Just because a parent doesnt give the love he or she should be giving doesnt mean the teacher has to take over that role.

    • That’s the thing…in that kind of community, sometimes school is the only place where anyone gives half a damn about those kids. I worked in a school where sometimes being at school was the only time some kids got food, electricity, air conditioning and someone who cared that they existed. How, as a teacher, could I in good conscience turn my back on that child just because “that’s what the parent should be doing”.

      Education and being cared about are not dichotomous. They can, and often do, come from the same place. The absolute best teachers that I’ve had the pleasure to teach with love their students and are affectionate towards them. Furthermore, psychologically speaking, if someone in a child’s life does not show them affection, they do not develop normally in the emotional sense. I would much rather a child get affection at school and develop properly emotionally than have a teacher say, “that’s not my job” and have a child who could end up emotionally abnormal. Sociopaths, psychopaths and serial killers often were not raised with any kind of consistent affection in their lives and did not develop normal emotions. The educational well being is NOT the only thing that a teacher is responsible for.

  13. Hadass Eviatar says:

    Hug yes, in elementary, kiss no.

  14. Z! says:

    I don’t remember getting a single hug from a teacher. This does not to mean that there wasn’t affection through deeds though. Getting extra priviledges, stickers and little toys/candies. Punishments were equally harsh with line writing and groundings from recess. I do remember more heinous behaviour from some of the male teachers in highschool though….

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