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  • Are teachers allowed to touch kids in a joking or "good job" way?

    My daughter and exchange student both have a teacher they can't stand because he seems creepy and sadistic to them. When they answer a question correctly , he punches them in the arm or pokes them in the arm with his clipboard which really bothers them. Is he allowed to do this? Should I tell them to ask him to stop or should I report this to the school principal and have him tell the teacher to stop?

  • #2
    Re: Are teachers allowed to touch kids in a joking or "good job" way?

    It sounds like this teacher has overstepped their boundaries.

    Option 1. They should quietly ask the teacher to stop this behavior and reward them in some other fashion. He may not be aware this is bothering them. If he continues, then go to the principal.

    Most students don't mind being touched in a non-threatening manner. A light pat on the back or touch on the shoulder will often put a student at ease. In fact, some of the training I received encouraged it as a way to connect with students and keep their attention. HOWEVER, if a student shows any kind of discomfort at the touch, I will stop and ask point blank, "Are you ok with this? It's ok if you don't want to be touched."

    Some teachers are very upfront about touching students in class and will tell students what to expect and that they have the right to "opt out" at any time. It could be something as simple as "From time to time I may touch you on your shoulder as I walk by your desk. If this makes you uncomfortable, please tell me."

    We were also told not to touch the top of students' heads, as this is offensive in some cultures.
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    • #3
      Re: Are teachers allowed to touch kids in a joking or "good job" way?

      I teach special education and deaf education, and so a pat on the back is normal, and in Deaf Culture, sometimes a tap is needed to get attention.

      I'm going to guess this is a new teacher, and wants to be palsy-walsy with everyone. In all honesty, this is a great learning opportunity for your girls in self-advocating. I know for myself, if a student came up to me, in private or at an appropriate juncture and just said, "do you mind not doing that?" The teacher would respond in kind.

      Lemme put it to you this way. I am now in charge of 3 interpreters. They are all women and all touchy-feely and terrific supports to the team and myself. However, they love to hug each other on the way out of the classroom at the end of the day.

      I'm not a palsy-walsy, hugging, lovey-dovey kinda guy. In fact, I hate it when, at church, when the minister says, "go ahead and greet each other!" and everyone hugs. I don't know where they've been. I don't know how they are going to smell. I freak and always shove my hand out for a shake...

      ...or just give up going to church.

      With my work cohorts, I just said, "can we keep the hugging to major holidays or crisises? At least for me?"

      They laughed, but they have respected it since. Of course, they did threaten to take me out for drinks--and they would hug me. Luckily for me, I don't drink.

      Whew...another bullet dodged. But there you have it with me, in reverse.

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      • #4
        Have bicycle, will ride. Finished 2012 with 10,089 miles, 683 hours, and 482,000 feet of elevation gain.
        2013: 201 rides, 8171 miles, 544 hours, 480K feet.
        2014 so far: 7846 miles, 451,000 feet
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        • #5
          Re: Are teachers allowed to touch kids in a joking or "good job" way?

          I agree with Trekkie Dad. Just as a kid would treat a friend that repetitively gets on their nerves somehow ..ask them to stop. If they don't, have an adult authority make them. Sounds like this goofy teacher could benefit from some adult advise. However, others in the class may actually enjoy rolling with the jovial punches. Nevertheless, he needs to be let know that your kids think he's a dork ..and their bodies are off bounds.
          Last edited by Ride Warrior; 11-09-2009, 06:39 PM.
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          • #6
            Re: Are teachers allowed to touch kids in a joking or "good job" way?

            Definitely let the teacher know that this bothers them. If he doesn't stop, then you escalate it and start reporting things. I think a talk from the prinicpal should get his attention, if a simple request does not.

            Not so much a matter of "allowed," but of student comfort.
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            • #7
              Re: Are teachers allowed to touch kids in a joking or "good job" way?

              I would definitely try to have your daughter bring it up. Not only will the teacher respect her honesty, but it will also give her some experience with speaking up for herself in a tricky situation. You could even roll-play at home if she's freaked out about. I think it would only encourage her independence....and any gal worth her salt needs to know how to tell others when they are bothering her.

              Going over her head and straight to the principal may make things awkward for both the teacher and your daughter. It's always best to encourage honest communication.
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              • #8
                Re: Are teachers allowed to touch kids in a joking or "good job" way?

                Good advice, all around. I don't think I have anything to add, except that all this punching and poking is sure to create a hostile environment. The teacher's reaction strikes me as being really immature- we spend all day reminding the kids not to touch/bother/harass/poke/tease/torment each other and then the teacher is just as bad or worse? Not acceptable. How is hitting someone ever a reward?

                It would be great if the girls went together and could let the teacher know how they (and possibly others) feel about this situation. This teacher may just be so clueless as to have no idea how they are being perceived, so I'd give the benefit of the doubt first, and then take next steps if nothing changes.
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                • #9
                  Re: Are teachers allowed to touch kids in a joking or "good job" way?

                  Originally posted by Trekkie Dad View Post

                  We were also told not to touch the top of students' heads, as this is offensive in some cultures.
                  I don't mean to get off subject...but, since you said the above and something about touching student's shoulders...I wanted to bring this up.

                  I worked in a Chinese restaurant when I was a teenager, and the cook told a coworker; that you should never touch a Chinese person's shoulder. They consider it bad luck.



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                  • #10
                    Re: Are teachers allowed to touch kids in a joking or "good job" way?

                    That may just be his way of saying good job. But if it bothers them, then maybe they should politely bring it up after class.

                    In 11th grade, I had a computer illustrator class and if you asked a question, the teacher would always punch, tap, or bump your shoulder and say "be right there." We never thought it was odd or creepy...just his nature.
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                    • #11
                      Re: Are teachers allowed to touch kids in a joking or "good job" way?

                      Originally posted by Roo719 View Post
                      I'm going to guess this is a new teacher, and wants to be palsy-walsy with everyone. In all honesty, this is a great learning opportunity for your girls in self-advocating. I know for myself, if a student came up to me, in private or at an appropriate juncture and just said, "do you mind not doing that?" The teacher would respond in kind.


                      Nope, not a new teacher.

                      Originally posted by Ride Warrior View Post
                      I agree with Trekkie Dad. Just as a kid would treat a friend that repetitively gets on their nerves somehow ..ask them to stop. If they don't, have an adult authority make them. Sounds like this goofy teacher could benefit from some adult advise. However, others in the class may actually enjoy rolling with the jovial punches. Nevertheless, he needs to be let know that your kids think he's a dork ..and their bodies are off bounds.
                      Good advice. And...I don't think there are others in the class who enjoy rolling with the jovial punches. It's not an even playing field. These are his students , not his buddies he is punching and poking. They don't get to punch him or poke him back . The buddies do.

                      Originally posted by alphabassetgrrl View Post
                      Definitely let the teacher know that this bothers them. If he doesn't stop, then you escalate it and start reporting things. I think a talk from the prinicpal should get his attention, if a simple request does not.

                      Not so much a matter of "allowed," but of student comfort.
                      Thanks.

                      Originally posted by SusieP. View Post
                      Good advice, all around. I don't think I have anything to add, except that all this punching and poking is sure to create a hostile environment. The teacher's reaction strikes me as being really immature- we spend all day reminding the kids not to touch/bother/harass/poke/tease/torment each other and then the teacher is just as bad or worse? Not acceptable. How is hitting someone ever a reward?

                      It would be great if the girls went together and could let the teacher know how they (and possibly others) feel about this situation. This teacher may just be so clueless as to have no idea how they are being perceived, so I'd give the benefit of the doubt first, and then take next steps if nothing changes.
                      You're right that he may be clueless. But this is a teacher who , according to my girls, uses rough physical contact to reward kids and smiles when he's handing out referrals or punishments of some kind. I don't like what I'm hearing .

                      Originally posted by PretzelSouls View Post

                      In 11th grade, I had a computer illustrator class and if you asked a question, the teacher would always punch, tap, or bump your shoulder and say "be right there." We never thought it was odd or creepy...just his nature.
                      Did it bother you when he punched you? My daughter demonstrated on me how hard the teacher punched her. It bothered me since it was pretty hard for a good job kind of punch. I'll give the teacher the benefit of the doubt that maybe he doesn't know how hard he is punching or poking. But I am going to suggest to my daughter to ask him to stop.

                      Thanks for the good advice everyone.

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                      • #12
                        Re: Are teachers allowed to touch kids in a joking or "good job" way?

                        Is this teacher also a coach of some kind, too? That's the only place I could maybe see this kind of interaction as being okay, but that's a strong maybe.

                        I just can't even wrap my brain around punching someone as a reward or positive acknowledgement!
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                        • #13
                          Re: Are teachers allowed to touch kids in a joking or "good job" way?

                          Princess Buttercup - Please let us know how this pans out. I'm curious about what the teacher has to say for himself.
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                          • #14
                            Re: Are teachers allowed to touch kids in a joking or "good job" way?

                            Originally posted by SusieP. View Post
                            Is this teacher also a coach of some kind, too? That's the only place I could maybe see this kind of interaction as being okay, but that's a strong maybe.

                            I just can't even wrap my brain around punching someone as a reward or positive acknowledgement!
                            Nope. He's a science teacher.

                            My exchange student said she hasn't seen him do this in her junior level class. My daughter is a freshman and says he's done this to several students who are also freshmen like her.

                            I'm thinking that maybe he thinks the punching or poking is like giving them a pat on the back to say good job, but that he's worried that a pat on the back might seem more inappropriate than punching or poking. I really don't know though.

                            I asked my girls more questions to try to help them explain why the guy seems creepy to them. They said it's mostly because he smiles at times when most people wouldn't smile in a kind of sadistic way. He just sounds weird to me.

                            Originally posted by leopardchucks View Post
                            Princess Buttercup - Please let us know how this pans out. I'm curious about what the teacher has to say for himself.
                            Don't worry. I will.

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                            • #15
                              Re: Are teachers allowed to touch kids in a joking or "good job" way?

                              tell her to have a nice talk with him, instead of complaining to you go right to the source. if she is uncomfortable talking to him go to the office and talk to a higher up. some teachers are like this, my kid has one and she told him it did not look right for him to be poking her, he stopped and she and he are on great terms.
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