Yes, it true. A North Shore school in Auckland is blaming hugging for making students, mainly girls, being late for class. Guess what? --- They have banned hugging. My first reaction was to feel that the school has used a ‘sledge hammer to kill an ant,’ as one parent put it. I am sure the move will cause plenty of debate, both within schools and the wider community. Bloggers (like me) will have a field day. I feel that I must comment from a ‘working in a secondary school perspective.’
Firstly, students will be late for many reason, friendship circles and parting after breaks would just being one of them. Yes, I have noticed that at secondary school, kids tend to hug way more than when my generation was at school back in the 60’s. Hugging has sort of crept up on us and can even be seen on the rugby field these days, without the nasty aspersions that would have been cast in previous times. Students will even hug their teachers; something that some teachers find a little too invasive of their privacy. I have seen some almost flinch when a student attempts to hug them. I t has to come down to that teacher’s comfort level dictating and giving off signals that hugging is not appropriate for them. I suspect that increased attention from the media about hugging in general is going to cause a good deal of debate and schools will react by creating their own policies around hugging.
Back to the ‘lateness of students. From time to time, schools need to raise the bar re this age old problem. Gone are the days when tardiness to class was rewarded by a quick canning or detention. Schools have had to become creative about the sanctions imposed for the above transgression of school rules. Detentions still have a place along with various forms of ‘reporting,’ whereby students have to carry around a report that may or may not be taken home for parents to peruse.
Lateness can also be a bit cyclical. Towards the end of the year when seniors have departed for their exams, the juniors tend to ‘push the boundaries.’ That is the time when many schools reassert their rules.
There is another issue. Some kids will always try to avoid class and the prospect of a detention is well worth suffering if it means that they can spend a few more precious moments with their ‘best friends.’ (They may not be ‘best friends the next day of course, such is the transitory nature of friendship). Other students are just plain bored with particular classes. This has always been so and the spectre of a ‘punishment’ metered out for late-comers is not always enough to curtail tardy practises. Of course that doesn’t make the lessons any more attractive to such students, so I guess the kids attend the classes on sufferance. Let’s face it; teachers are not going to be able to cater for every student in a way that makes their lessons attractive to all students. Such a school does not exist unless it is some sort of ‘special school,’ catering for a particular ‘targeted group, with very small classes. (Oh, isn’t that what the National Government in NZ is proposing under the heading of Charter Schools or some other name they dreamed up?)
OK, so what are we going to do about ‘hugging’ in our schools, whether they be primary, intermediate or secondary? How about we don’t make it a huge issue. Let’s take it school, by school and create an environment where hugging is OK. If the kids then come late to class, then deal with the ‘lateness, not some supposed belief that hugging is the real issue. Talk to the kids. Get an agreement that ‘all’ can live with. We know that there will always be students who will go over the line. For those who insist on some sort of ritual hugging of every one of their friendship group---talk to the kids about how they need to come up with a solution to the problem that may cause. We may be very surprised at what the students come up with. The kids know they are or will be late to class and if they can get away with it, they will.
Discuss, then implement a school wide policy and consign the whole discussion to a level where it belongs---- not in the National Media!