Two Different Worlds

I took my FBLA students to a local elementary school for our annual Dr. Seuss Reading Day celebration.  My students are in high school and they read Dr. Seuss books  to preschool and primary grade students. This year I noticed something that hadn’t occured to me before: The primary school teachers have a great deal of physical interaction with their students. And no, I’m not talking about inappropriate touching: I’m talking about a tap on the shoulder, a nudge to remind the child to get back in line, or simply patting the child on the back in praise. I was shocked!

Unless you’re a high school teacher, you may not understand why I was shocked. My astonishment stems from the fact that the number one thing you’re told as a beginning teacher is to never ever touch a student, under any circumstances unless they are life threatening (i.e. break up a fight, administer CPR, etc). I have been teaching for four years and have only touched a student twice. In each case, I got too excited about how well they had done on an assignment and patted the student on the back. My immediate response was to back off with my hands in the air and proclaim that I was incredibly sorry that I had touched the student and it was a complete mistake.

With these primary school teachers, though, the ballgame is entirely different. I asked my principal about why these teachers were touching the kids and she reminded me of something from your basic Human Growth and Development class: Young children need positive touch to help build self-esteem and to learn to function with other people. Therefore, it is acceptable for appropriate touches (like those I mentioned above). If you’re curious as to whether or not touching is important for healthy development, watch a biography of Dudley Moore: His mother nor father ever touched him and he had all sorts of intimacy problems as an adult.

Even though I understand why they are allowed to touch their students, I still can’t imagine actually having that much contact with someone else’s child on a daily basis without being terrified of being blamed for something inappropriate. I suppose much of that fear would vanish once I saw how naturally touching most children are. I remember hugging my primary school teachers, and while I don’t recall a specific instance, I’m pretty sure they probably patted me on the back or physically reassured me in some way.  It’s just amazing to me how different the paradigms are between primary and secondary school rules and functions!

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