Students Comfort Level with Touching
Laurie R., Nebraska
For those of you that teach groups, do you ever find that students are uncomfortable or embarrassed to touch each others’ hands? I’m thinking in particular of a 13 yr-old boy that may be in a group with three 16-yr-olds (all beginners). I think it may be awkward for him. Come to think of it, I would have the same question for most adolescents of the opposite sex. Any advice or helpful experiences?
Vonnie L., Oregon
It is best to anticipate that teens and maybe preteens (M-F or M-M), will be uneasy with the hand-touching unless you address it upfront by saying that it may feel strange at first but that it is an important part of the learning experience, and that you expect them to do it as you demonstrate. Then watch to make sure each one does it correctly the first time to get rid of the funny feelings. Unless someone has religious objections or a genuine phobia or a physical condition that would make it painful, I think we shouldn’t let them get away with not doing it. If they start giggling or acting silly just stop everything and say that you expect them to be able to handle it maturely at their age and have them repeat the process until they can do it correctly with no discomfort or silliness. If you sound confident that they will get it right, then they will! If there is one student who is considerably younger than the others and you anticipate may have more trouble than the rest, you might want to try to prepare him ahead of time.
Another thought: If you have the first student put his/her hand on the BACK of the second student’s hand rather than on the palm, it would seem less like hand-holding and would probably be a lot more comfortable emotionally.