Almost a year ago, I published a post about teaching and love (http://www.maestrateacher.com/blog/teaching-and-love). As the month of March continues to test teachers’ patience, and parents also struggle to maintain their calm, this topic is on my mind again.
Our kids drive us crazy, test our limits, scream, whine, demand, and do things they are not supposed to do - even the best of kids. Even so, we keep loving them. In fact, I find that my love for my children grows each time we jump a hurdle of difficulty.
The same goes for my students. We have our challenging days: those days where I am too tired to be engaging or they are too tired to be engaged; the days where something is going on in their lives that is distracting them and not allowing them to be fully present. We get through those days, and afterwards we are usually closer and stronger for it. Teachers forgive students their bad behavior, and most I know have a great deal of empathy. And they are capable of moving on after students mess up. We know that everyone deserves not only a second, but a third, fourth, and even a fifth (or more) chance. We also know, especially in middle school, that students will test our limits often, just like our own kids.
When I taught Spanish, and had larger classes and more behavior challenges together in one room, I probably spent about 60% of my time on classroom management. Spanish was seen as the “fun” class, and friends who never had classes together because of our team structure didn’t see one another all day until they got to Spanish. Also, students with different learning issues were often steered towards Spanish as their language choice in middle school - out of 6 languages we offered when I began - because it was the “easiest”. So, my classes were at times challenging, and they sometimes exasperated me. At times, students would ask me if I hated them. I was always a little shocked by that question. I would say to them, “Of course not! I love you all. Are you annoying me right now? Yes. But I cannot imagine any teacher ever HATING a student - if that happens, that person maybe should not be a teacher anymore.”
I’m not sure if they 100% believed me, but I meant my words. My son’s second grade teacher (hey Lauren!), at the beginning of the year she had him in class, said to me, “I have to find great things in each one of these kids so that I can love them all” - it was her personal mission as a teacher. At our parent conference, she told me, very frankly, that she hadn’t found that yet in my son (I was not offended). I can’t remember to what it was due, but a few months later, at an informal check-in, she told me that she had finally found it! Something to make her love my son. And she did.
Just as with our students, I believe we have to love our own kids as they are - faults and all. Only then can they, and our students, begin to trust us to guide them and help take them to the next level.