You always hear that teachers wear many hats. If you haven’t heard that...well you probably haven’t talked to a teacher recently. Being a teacher today means a lot of things. There are many pressures on teachers to have high performing students. They are expected to have all students scoring mastery on state tests. Teachers must create lessons that are rigorous (the quality of being extremely thorough, exhaustive, or accurate) while still meeting the needs of every student where they are. All of these are extremely important components of the job. These things will identify if we are successful and proficient educators. What these components don’t include is, in our minds, the most important part of being a teacher...loving the students.
Contrary to popular belief, teachers do not just teach children state standards and prepare them for a test.
Our role is so much bigger. It is one that requires us to nurture every soul that walks through our door in a big way. We must encourage them. We must love them all sorts of big. We must model proper ways to respond and interact with peers. This task is one of the most challenging and imperative tasks that we must accomplish in 10 months. If we don't create this type of environment for all students, especially those struggling with things outside the classroom, it can become even more challenging to get through to them academically. We once read a quote by Nicholas A. Ferroni which gives the opinion that,
“Students who are loved at home come to school to learn, those who aren’t come to school to be loved.”
We see this all the time. It is not to say students who carry burdens from outside the walls of the school cannot be successful and learn. That’s not it at all. It is merely to say that if we can foster that love, like that of a family in the classroom, it will make it that much easier for struggling students to be successful and focus on the content and not outlying emotional factors.
Whether you teach at a title one school or a very financially supported school, love is the biggest part of this job. Every school, rich or poor, big or small is filled with students that come from homes. These homes could be big, small, rundown, elaborate, etc. Despite their outward appearance, we as teachers typically don’t know what goes on inside those walls. Many times, these students are experiencing chaos, emotional abuse, hunger and far more than we could ever fathom. There are times we probably go an entire school year and never realize these things are happening. There are no signs that signal concern, the student just keeps it bottled up and we teach them and love them and they go on their way to the next grade.
On the flip side, there are those students who send red flags. They respond in ways that let you know something is causing them deep internal pain. They may act out. They may release their frustration by talking back, yelling, crying, being defiant, etc. They also may release their frustration by shutting down and internalizing it all.
Their classroom frustration typically has nothing to do with what’s actually going on in the classroom.
Their reaction usually is connected to triggers that are beyond their control… triggers that occur outside of the classroom.
When students react like this, it’s not always your first instinct to think it could be outside factors affecting them. Instead of viewing those students as a burden or an interruption, it may be important to validate their feelings in that moment and show them even more love. They may have never gotten the validation at home that it’s okay to be angry or okay to be upset. In turn, that normally means they’ve never been taught how to manage their feelings. When we show our students that it’s okay to be upset and then teach them how to cope with those feelings, we show them that we don’t just care about their ability to perform successfully on a test, but also their success in life.
That may be more love than they’ve ever experienced.
Just like a teacher has to leave all of his/her outside battles at the door every morning, it’s crucial that we help students understand that they too can do the same. They are not judged for what has happened at home while getting ready for school. They are not judged for their choices they made at school the day before.
They, in fact, are loved unconditionally no matter what has happened before walking through the door of their classroom.
The importance of loving your students is something you will hear about constantly as an educator… but it’s also important to realize that some of those relationships (especially those with “that student”) are not going to form overnight. It’s going to take time to build those relationships and form that trust between you and your students. Those relationships will also take a great deal of effort, energy, and emotion from you. They are extremely intentional and extremely rewarding. You may not feel the reward immediately or even 8 months into the school year. Trust us though, there will come a time when things switch and all of the effort, energy, and emotion (and often tears) you put in to that student(s) will be more than worth it, and that’s why we do what we do.
Teaching with love, hugs, and curriculum gives us an opportunity to change lives, one day at a time.
So you tell me… What’s love got to do with it?