Education Quandary: I am very physical in how I teach drama. But my new headteacher has told me to change the way I work. Do I really have to?

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Hilary's advice

High on my Christmas book list this year will be Trust: How We Lost It and How To Get It Back by Anthony Seldon, the High Master of Wellington College, who argues that the loss of this vital commodity is sapping society. He is right.

You say you are experienced and think nothing of giving a student a hug, or moving pupils around by the shoulders. What harm is there in that? But your timid new head is terrified someone will decide these things are the first steps on the nasty road to child abuse.

In making this assumption, he – let's assume it's a he – is not trusting you to do your job as you think best, not trusting his students to know the difference between normal human contact and physical touching driven by bullying or sexual desire, and not trusting parents to understand this either. These are, of course, real worries. Unfounded allegations against teachers are made with depressing regularity these days.

But a confident school leader would take his own measure of your teaching style, back you if he felt all was well and only intervene if there was a problem. Ask your head who exactly has complained about your classroom manner or teaching performance.

Explain that it will be difficult to curb your natural exuberance and challenge the assumptions behind his request that you should do so. If he is unbending, and you are confident there is nothing wrong in how you teach, you may want to consider moving jobs.

Readers' advice

Ignore anyone who is trying to dictate what you do in your classroom and carry on as you think best. I am a music teacher and a year ago we were being told we couldn't touch a child to show them how to play an instrument. What nonsense!

And how sick to think that any contact between adults and children is automatically harmful! You sound lovely and I would be delighted to have my children in your class.

Dilys Evans, Berkshire

My wife is a nursery school teacher and will always cuddle a child who is hurt or upset, but we both believe it is entirely inappropriate for anyone working in a secondary school to hug a student. It is not necessary and can easily be taken the wrong way. Your head knows this and that is why you have been asked to change. Teachers should be professionals and know how to draw the line so that they are respected and looked up to.

Charles Richards, Essex

You sound like one of those irritating teachers who wants to "get down with the kids", and have them all see you as their best friend. I think you need to have a long look at yourself and ask if you are really "exuberant" or just plain annoying and intrusive. Good teachers can ask pupils to move and know that they will. They don't have to shunt them around by their shoulders to get them to do what they want.

Lesley Gidden, Surrey

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