The Atlantic

Should Teachers Be Allowed to Touch Students?

Sheltering children from physical contact deprives educators of an important instructional tool and students of an essential learning experience.
Source: Jerry Lampen / Reuters

Touch has been an important part of my teaching for the past decade. When I was working as a middle-school teacher, I used touch on a daily basis to both connect with and correct the behavior of my students.

If a student was having trouble focusing, a light touch on the shoulder served as a gentle reminder to get back to work. When parents divorced, grandmothers fell ill, or guinea pigs died, hugs served as a tangible reminder of my emotional support on an otherwise anxious or upsetting day.

Recently, I changed jobs, and have become much more hesitant to reach out and use touch as a teaching tool. I currently teach English and writing at an inpatient drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility, and many of my adolescent students have endured sexual and physical abuse. Consequently, I am acutely aware of the power of touch—both to

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