To touch or not to touch. Male primary school teachers' experiences of touch: a hermeneutic phenomenological study.
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This thesis offers an interpretation of how eight male primary school teachers experience touch between themselves and their pupils/students. Despite the positive benefits of touch and evidence suggesting that appropriate forms of touch should be encouraged, the many meanings, interpretations and reactions to touch potentially complicate the ways in which people react. The potential for touch to enhance human well-being is therefore often diminished. The taboo surrounding touch is particularly evident in the school environment where limited research has been undertaken. This study gives voice to male teachers as they share their experiences in an era when the risks associated with physical contact between teachers and pupils are increasing. Hermeneutic phenomenology was used to explore and gain deeper understanding of the meaning of touch in education through interpreting the day to day experiences of male primary school teachers in New Zealand. Narrative interviews were interpreted and described thematically. The themes: ‘being careful, cautious and visible’, ‘worrying about misinterpretation’, ‘feeling sad’ and ‘battling with boundaries’, revealed a complex array of tensions that contributed to the findings. Male primary school teachers are constantly aware of the risk they take when interacting with students. They experience tensions and conflict when deciding where and how they will touch children and whether this will be misinterpreted by others. Consideration of the ways in which people respond to this complex and sensitive subject is necessary so that male teachers feel able to use positive and appropriate forms of touch without fear of suspicion and reprisal.