Teachers have to be careful. Sometimes detrimentally so.
At the beginning of the school year, there is inevitably a swarm of past-year students who want to come by the classroom to say hello. They’ve forgotten about the homework, the detentions, and the long assignments that made them roll their eyes at me. Now they love me.
Seeing me as a fatherly figure (and unfortunately the closest thing to a father for many), they squeal my name and run up to me to give me a hug. I quickly throw up my hand and enthusiastically say, “Teachers high five!” and avert the the attempted hug attacks with epic high fives. Job security.
Now, I’m not being paranoid to say that a male teacher has to be careful about those things. It only takes one false accusation to ruin a man’s career and put him on the kind of list that parents check when finding a home in a new neighborhood.
The other day, one of my new students was telling me during class about how her grandmother passed away a couple of weeks ago. She began tearing up, and I was doing my best to console her. I listened to her and watched her cry, and related by telling her how I lost a friend this summer also. Then she went in for the hug, but I instinctively put my hand up and said, “Teachers high five?”
I felt awful. All this poor child needed was a hug. But in the name of job security, I gave a paltry gesture of consolation. I might be saving my job, but I feel like I am losing my soul.