Two nights ago I was grimacing and trying to be pleasant to the parents of this semester’s students. The fact that we have Open House twice a year galls me, but apparently our Fearless Leaders don’t actually care about my feelings (don’t they know that I’m an almost totally obscure internet blogger?!) and my attendance was required.
The thing that I hate more than the incessant questions about what I’m going to do to recognize Little Johnny’s specials gifts (which apparently include being able to find my classroom every day), more than having to explain to people what it is I plan on doing this semester (It’s called “teaching,” people… I’m a “teacher!”), and even more than being forced to defend the completely asinine positions of our Fearless Leaders (You see, we’re not going to purchase any updated classroom materials for the new curriculum, because we’re a very progressive school.), is having to shake parent’s hands.
Sidebar: Today I’m suffering from my first cold of the year and if I find out that I contracted it from a parent, their special snowflake is doomed to failure.
The reason that I hate shaking hands with parents is because apparently none of them know how to do it well. Here are the 4 things that parents do wrong when shaking your hand.
1. The Boneless Fish: When you are meeting a person (like myself) who, if he wasn’t a teacher would be a member of the Brute Squad, please be aware that his giant paw has large bones and muscles in it. If you are worried about having your hand crushed, then don’t offer to shake his hand! If you’re not worried about it, then please understand that you are not likely to hurt someone’s hand by actually gripping it with your own. Simply holding your hand out there like a boneless fish filet is not acceptable and it makes the person unlucky enough to attempt to grab your hand feel like they are now touching something weird and gross. It’s rude and disconcerting and I wish that these people would grow a skeletal system and knock it off, already!
2. The Chinese Hand Trap: Shaking hands has rules. You can use it when you meet someone, to signal a deal, or even as a farewell. Regardless of the reason, no handshake should ever last longer than 3 seconds. What you may never do is trap someone into talking to you for longer than they might like. These people will act like normal human beings who are simply offering to shake your hand, but then once contact is made, they cling to your hand like a lamprey that’s finally latched on to a tuna. You try to let go of their hand to signal that the handshake is over, but they will pretend to be oblivious, forcing you to either wrench your hand back or suffer their banality until they release you. I consider this a special type of personal space invasion that it should be socially acceptable to respond to with a punch to the nose.
3. The Double Clutch: Some people are simply bad at shaking hands. Either they don’t have any idea of when to offer or receive a handshake, or they lack the gross motor skills to shake someone’s hand successfully. These are the people who will reach out to shake your hand and miss. Either you’ll end up shaking their fingers, or with their thumb folded awkwardly against your palm… something. In order to solve this, these people will sometimes attempt to re-grab your hand. Don’t do this. You are not hanging from a cliff and about to plummet to your death; gaining a more secure grip is not necessary. If it is a mildly bad handshake (the finger grab) then just suffer through it for a second or two and move on. If it a really unworkable handshake, let the person’s hand go immediately, share a chuckle or rueful shake of the head and again, move on.
4. The Man-Off: Guys (in my experience they are always guys), absolutely NO ONE cares about how strong your hands are; you’re just creeping people out with your weird intensity. Yes, I know. I’m a largish human being with bear paws instead of human hands. You do not need to challenge me to a hand strength contest. I know that you’re a very manly man with chest hair and everything, but really it’s ok. I imagine that folks with human hands find these handshakes painful, but to me they are simply amusing. I have no idea what they are trying to prove with their crushing grip, but they are very serious about proving it.
How is it that so many people can get through life without learning how to shake someone’s hand? And why are so many of them the parents of my students?!