What’s love got to do with it?

The other day, in my Writing Nonfiction class,  I heard myself say, “You don’t have to love, er, like each other, but you must honor and respect each others’ writing and processes of learning.” That word love slipped out before I could catch it and I felt a little embarrassed. It’s just not the kind of word we use in education.

But isn’t that kind of stupid? In reports about why kids stay in school in areas of high dropout rates, the same explanation–from the kids– appears over and over.

“Teacher X really cared about me and…

…I didn’t want to let/him her down.”

…they made me believe I could do it.”

…they even used to come find me and bug me until I came back to class.”

If that’s not love, I don’t know what is.

When kids start to wake up to learning and do their work, are they working for themselves? Nope. I think they start working for us until they learn to work for themselves.  Love.

Two small examples where the word love made a surprise appearance & stuck with me:

In her book What Keeps Teachers Going? Sonia Nieto devotes an entire chapter to “Teaching as Love.”

Let’s forget the sentimental view of love and think instead of how love becomes visible through teachers’ daily work. According to Steve Gordon, preceding everything else in teaching is “the core belief in students” and “a fundamental belief in the lives & minds of students.” … Love, then, is not simply a sentimental conferring of emotion; it is a blend of confidence, faith, and admiration for students and an appreciation for the strengths they bring with them. It is some of these qualities that make for effective teaching.”

Then there’s a little video of Clay Shirky’s 2008(?) talk at the Supernova conference. It’s about the internet but you could substitute the word education and Shirky’s words would still apply– especially in the area of educational reform.

From the talk: “We have always loved one another. We’re human. It’s something we’re good at. But up until recently, the radius and half-life of that affection has been quite limited. With love alone, you can get a birthday party together. Add coordinating tools, and you can write an operating system. “In the past, we could do little things for love, but big things, big things required money. Now, we can do big things for love.”

Shirky says tools and I think social communities on the web, other web tools, software, collaboration across boundaries… and love.

Now we can do big things for love.

Sounds like a plan to me.

6 responses to “What’s love got to do with it?”

  1. Jennifer Ansbach says:

    I love my students. All of them. Even the ones who make me crazy (perhaps, especially those!). I believe great things come from love. When I was 13, my mom would tell me she loved me but didn’t like what I was doing at that moment. That has stayed with me. If I really commit to my students, invest myself in them as individuals, then I can be patient; I can reach deep down for better or new ways to connect with those students; I can separate how they behave from who they are.

    I love my students.

  2. MeredithS says:

    Love is absolutely the right word, although I agree sometimes it feels a little strange to say it. Just like romantic love, for me there was something really special about the first group of students I taught. Leaving them (I was teaching for a teacher who was out on an 6 month maternity leave) ripped my heart out. Despite my best efforts to avoid drama on the last day, there were kids hanging onto me and crying. (Not exactly cool behavior for middle schoolers.) One of them said to me, “It’s like Disney World, and you’re Mickey Mouse.” A parent emailed to say that her kid had cried herself to sleep the night before. A father whose wife was terminally ill came in and told me that I had been a bright spot in their family’s life in the past 6 months. After all the students had left, I sat in another (very kind, very patient) teacher’s room and sobbed for an hour. I told him I wasn’t sure that I could teach if this was what leaving every class was going to be like. He reminded me that it hurt so much to leave because teaching them had been so much joy and assured me that it would get easier, especially after I was in a position where I didn’t have to leave mid-year. He was right. It gets easier to send off a group of students, but there’s still a twinge, especially for certain students, and it’s definitely still love.

  3. Teresa Bunner says:

    Funny I should come home and read this after I just spent the last 2 hours driving to a nearby county to pick up one of my kids whose mom couldn’t seem to get her (she missed the entire week of school last week!). Lots of folks would tell me I’m plain crazy or stupid for doing this. But I can’t help it. I do love my kids. And they are my KIDS when they are in my classroom. I want the same things for them that I want for my own children. And so many of my babies come from places where the people in their lives don’t love them or lack the skills to show them that love. So I figure someone has got to love them. Why shouldn’t it be me?

    I tell my kids all the time that I love them. But they know it’s a tough love. Mrs. B loving you does not mean you slack off:) I tell them it is because I love them that I will push them to do their best and to expect more of themselves.

    I think you are right, Karen. I do think kids many times will work for us, to please us, long before they figure out they themselves are worth that same respect.

    The principal at my boys’ middle school is about 6ft 5in. He’s a big bear of a gentleman who happens to be African American in a school where there is a fairly large African American population. He always has a big smile on his face. Every afternoon he ends the day with afternoon announcements and signs off by saying “Grizzly staff and students, remember I love each and every one of you.” And he truly does. What a gift for those kids to see this adult who doesn’t fear the word love and who exemplifies what it means each and every day.

    Love- it’s a four letter word we should use more often.

    • Karen says:

      I think it frightens people to think about committing to a student so deeply. It’s a risk; it opens you to a host of emotional consequences, positive and negative. You have courage, my friend.

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