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I Keep Bumping Into Desks

smaller aisles

I keep bumping into desks. When I think I can fit through the aisle, I realize I was wrong. I keep having the awkward experience of my body accidentally brushing a student. Unfortunately, I have the sneaking suspicion that the aisles aren’t getting smaller.

Do Your Job

how can i do my jon

What if you worked at a company that designed, produced, and distributed software? The company would have designers, engineers, manufacturers, a distribution chain, etc. What would happen if the designers didn’t submit a design? Or the engineers didn’t bother to write the code? What if the manufacturer didn’t feel like manufacturing the product, or someone along the distribution chain had a bad day? People would get fired, or the company would fail and everyone would lose their job.

A teacher is paid to teach. If a teacher requires students to read so they can do a lesson the next day, like a discussion or activity, then what should the teacher do if the students don’t read? Many people would say, just read it to them. The argument is that students are not capable of reading on their own — they won’t do it, they can’t understand it on their own, or it won’t interest them. (Better just to let the benevolent rulers interpret the laws and rules because the common people lack the education and expertise to understand on their own. We will just tell you what it says and means, don’t hurt yourself trying to think!) Even if the teacher did do this, it takes a long time to read a book aloud.

Well, maybe the teacher can “dumb it down” without calling it “dumbing it down.” Here are some chapter summaries, or here is an important passage to read, or — here, let me tell you what happened so you don’t need to do anything on your own. That’s kind of like college where you never had to read the homework because the professor just summarized it all and gave you organized notes on it the next day. I’ve tried to entice students into reading by giving them part of the story in class and leaving off at a point of great interest or climax to try to build up suspense, but the next day no one ended up looking in the book; they just wanted me to tell them the answer.

How about quizzes or cloze activities or a graphic organizer? How about working with a partner or a team? How about an open-book assignment so they can just look up the section in class? The bottom line is, no matter what you plan for the next day, you won’t be able to do the activity if it depends on students reading. Or maybe it’s just me…

The Half Hug

half hug

Many teachers have a hands-off policy where they never make any kind of physical contact with a student. They believe that if they maintain this policy that nobody will ever have reason to falsely accuse them of any kind of crime. I respect this policy, but it’s not my style. I like to wake up sleeping kids by patting their arms, to give high-fives to students who do well, and when they are overcome with grief or happiness, they might attempt to hug me.

The problem is that a hug is rather intimate, and can bring up awkward situations like the correct cheek distance, appropriate squeeze strength,  or the problem of chest-brushing. My solution is the half-hug. A half-hug is not an outright rejection of a child who comes to you with open arms. It’s less uncomfortable than a full hug. It has little connotation that can be misconstrued, and a back pat adds that universal sign of platonic affection* so that there are no mixed signals involved. It also leaves a free hand for self-defense or sipping coffee.

In today’s day and age, it’s prudent to take measures of precaution: never be alone in a room with a student with a closed door, never discuss a student’s physical appearance, and if faced with a hug, a half-hug is acceptable as long as it is executed correctly (see diagram), and in public.

* If you did not know, a hand patting your back during a hug signals absolutely no romantic interest. Take note, those of you who are single. If you are dating and the date ends with a hand patting your back, it’s best to move on.