There is a cardinal rule against such things, but today I hugged a student.
Nate. His name is Nate. I can't state his last name here, for obvious reasons, but I wanted his first name to be heard (or read, as the case may be).
When I started teaching 9th grade English - late, at the end of September - my long-term sub told me Nate was a loud-mouth, a troublemaker who talked all class long. I came in, ready to face off, to get him under control.
But my experience with Nate turned out to be quite opposite from the sub's, and Nate was doing very well in my class before he suddenly vanished in mid-November. At first, I thought he was sick, and then I received the now-dreaded email from Guidance. Nate was going to be out long-term, and did I have any work he could do from afar? I did, and sent home a few assignments. No rumors flew until last week, when another student - a friend of Nate's - told me he was transferring to another high school because he had been bullied.
I was - and remain - shocked. Nate doesn't seem the type to be on the receiving end of such behavior, but then again, I guess there IS no type when it comes to being bullied. Bullies want a reaction... and reactions grants them the power to bully more.
It turns out Nate (in addition to in-school bullying) had been followed home and harassed to the point where he tried to commit suicide. He told me that he was then institutionalized until quite recently, and his transfer to another local high school was impending.
Nate came in today to return his 9th grade English textbook. I was showing my class a movie, and he crept in under cover of darkness. Without even thinking, I jumped up and hugged him. Our loss is their gain, I told him. He told me about the bullying; it turns out that two of the propagators are students in other classes of mine. I told him the world needs more kids like him, and fewer like them. I really didn't know what to say, except that I would miss him.
And so off went Nate, hopefully to better climes. And not only will I miss him, I will have to face two students who I know contributed to his absence.