Tag Archive: loving students

I Love Teaching, But Must I Also Love The Students?

I walked into the first day of a 10th grade history class at Bellflower High School.  The teacher took the roll and then said this (not an exact quote but an adequate paraphrase): 
“I am Mr. ……  I am the teacher, you are the students.  My job is to teach and your job is to learn.  I am not here to be your friend, just your teacher.”  This was not good for me.  I was 15, had acne, very little self confidence, and was just trying to fit in. I was not cool – that social level was always just out of my grasp.  But teachers had helped cover up my social deficiencies by being my friends.  From kindergarten through the ninth grade I had many really good teachers and never had I been told, right up front, that I should not expect some level of friendship.  I quietly revolted by deciding not to be his friend, and not to do much of anything in his class.

Is it necessary to like students?  I say yes and I would further add that it is critical to love them, to care about them, and to be concerned about them as people not just numbers (that is, if you want them to learn anything).  Someone told me once that a good working definition of ‘charity’ (real, pure love) is to love the unlovable.  I like that.  It is easy to love the lovable – the students who come in with work done and with eagerness to do more, the pretty ones, the handsome ones, the smiling ones, the confident ones.  It is much harder to love the unlovable.  Those are the surly ones, the bored, the disengaged, the lost, those that drag in late and stare at you and dare you to teach them.  The easy thing is to emotionally dismiss them and just work around them.  The hard thing, and the right thing, is to find a way.  Work your way into their life.

I’ve heard a teacher or two say something like this: “They don’t show any concern for me and I really have all I can do to work with the ones that seem interested.”  If you are going to wait for students to show interest in you first you are going to wait a long time.  That is not the natural order of things.  In the New Testament, I John 4:19 we learn the proper order and it is this:  We love the Savior because He first loved us.  The person with the most power in the relationship has to begin the process.  Sometimes the process is quick and often it drags out but I can hardly recall a student (teen-ager, young adult, or adult) that I could not be friends with, and then learn to love, after I made the first move and stayed with it in a variety of ways until we were friends.

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