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.