On Sunday we went to my sister's for my niece's birthday party. Since my niece finds Orlando Bloom's work in the Pirates movies to be that of a deeply talented actor, the party was pirate themed, and each child attendee received a cup of pirate loot. My six-year-old son and four-year-old had great fun with the eye patches and pirate bouncy balls. At one point my son came up with the idea of using the bouncy ball as his fake eye. He ran into the room and queried, "Do you want to see my peg eye?"
Earlier at that same party he was eating at a table full of older girls. Somehow, his elbow got wedged into the back of the chair, and he couldn't get it out. Not wanting to lose face in front of the ladies, he played it cool until his uncle walked by chair. He quietly asked if his uncle could help him because his elbow was stuck in the chair. His uncle helped him out, and the girls were never the wiser.
The twins just passed their ten month birthday. Yesterday I caught the eldest standing on his on-all-fours brother's back in an attempt to crawl onto the couch. He is becoming an accomplished escape artist, but has yet to learn that his actions have often painful consequences.
Did you see this Washinton Post piece: Va. School's No-Contact Rule Is a Touchy Subject? A couple of snippets:
All touching -- not only fighting or inappropriate touching -- is against the rules at Kilmer Middle School in Vienna. Hand-holding, handshakes and high-fives? Banned. The rule has been conveyed to students this way: "NO PHYSICAL CONTACT!!!!!"
School officials say the rule helps keep crowded hallways and lunchrooms safe and orderly, and ensures that all students are comfortable. But Hal, 13, and his parents think the school's hands-off approach goes too far, and they are lobbying for a change.
Deborah Hernandez, Kilmer's principal, said the rule makes sense in a school that was built for 850 students but houses 1,100. She said that students should have their personal space protected and that many lack the maturity to understand what is acceptable or welcome.
"You get into shades of gray," Hernandez said. "The kids say, 'If he can high-five, then I can do this.' "
She has seen a poke escalate into a fight and a handshake that is a gang sign. Some students -- and these are friends -- play "bloody knuckles," which involves slamming their knuckles together as hard as they can. Counselors have heard from girls who are uncomfortable hugging boys but embarrassed to tell anyone. And in a culturally diverse school, officials say, families might have different views of what is appropriate.
It isn't as if hug police patrol the Kilmer hallways, Hernandez said. Usually an askance look from a teacher or a reminder to move along is enough to stop girls who are holding hands and giggling in a huddle or a boy who pats a buddy on the back. Students won't get busted if they high-five in class after answering a difficult math problem.
Typically, she said, only repeat offenders or those breaking other rules are reprimanded. "You have to have an absolute rule with students, and wiggle room and good judgment on behalf of the staff," Hernandez said.
Schools exist to educate. Besides subject area teaching, the social education of children is one of the most important functions of schools. Children must learn to function in groups in appropriate and constructive ways. They must learn how to appropriately talk to, listen to, and, yes, touch others. Teachers and administrators must serve the central place in this development and must ensure that children to do not come to serious harm.
Frankly, this policy is a cop-out and is lazy educating. In a misguided attempt to keep students from any harm, the school has abandoned all responsibility for the development of the vital social skill of appropriate touching and has instead opted to teach that touching is wrong without considering the harm that might to done to a child who is deprived the gift of friendly touch: "Usually an askance look from a teacher or a reminder to move along is enough to stop ... a boy who pats a buddy on the back." While it is important to stop the malicious plague of boys who pat their buddies on their backs, isn't it more important to engage students in the "shades of gray" that Principal Hernandez is so loath to consider? She argues that, "You have to have an absolute rule with students," but one wonders exactly how can an absolute rule have "wiggle room" and still be absolute. Perhaps students are free to wiggle all they wish as long as they don't touch during "wiggle-time." Besides, that wiggling will most certainly be eliminated as soon as the Ritalin is added to the school water-fountains. I agree with her that "good judgment on behalf of the staff" is necessary; let us hope that the staff of Kilmer Middle School shall one day demonstrate that good judgment. Until then there will be a lot of teachers looking askance at the giggling girls and at the boys patting boys on the back.