Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Loving Our Students
I think one of my favorite conversations from today was with a student that I had to see for a discipline issue.

The student sat across from me, and sized me up. There isn't anything quite like being sized up by a skeptical fourth grader. As we talked he regarded me with much disdain, and through the initial discourse it was clear that he was sizing me up, and seeing if he could engage me in a power struggle. When it was clear that I would not go down that path, he tried a different tact. He launched into a decent monologue about how I must not like him. I was honest with the child, I told him I barely knew him given that I had only been an administrative intern in the building a few short weeks. But I also told him something else. I told him that while I certainly did not approve of the behavior that landed him in the office with me that afternoon, it did not impact my ability to love him.

At first he seemed skeptical. Then I shared with him a few things. First, that as a mom there are definitely times when I am frustrated by the choices that my own children make, but those choices do not cause me to love my children any less. He conceded that, that was possible, but that it was because they were my kids; so I continued. I showed him a picture that I had, of a former student and I together. I asked him what he saw in the picture. To which he replied, "You like that kid a lot; I can tell because of the way you both are smiling." I said, "You're right I do like that kid a lot! I love that student. But you might also be surprised to know that last year that student really struggled in school, he had a really hard time, and there were behaviors that I didn't approve of. Does it look like I love him any less?" He couldn't argue, and suddenly the sullen boy sitting across from me dropped his shoulders, and relaxed. Yes, it is possible to detest a particular behavior, to have to impart consequences, but it is also possible to continue to love the child.

I think one of the most important things that we can do for children is to have high expectations for learning and behavior. The other is to treat them with compassion, and to love them. Many are fighting a battle we know nothing about.


  1. So true, Christina! Our students deserve to be treated with compassion and love while feeling safe in our schools. At the same time they need to know we believe in them by having high expectations and standards.

  2. Christina,
    Thought your post was excellent. Here's a letter I used in my book, "A Path with Heart: The Inner Journey to Teaching Mastery"

    Teachers Wanted Must Love Students
    To the Editor:
    We travel around the country helping urban and rural high schools increase
    college enrollment rates for economically disadvantaged students. The principals and administrators we meet say that what they need are teachers who love students.

    Yes, they admit, a teacher needs the most sophisticated tools and curriculum, as well as expertise in psychology, neuroscience, pedagogy, learning differences, and academic standards. But it is the teacher who has the greatest capacity to care and to connect with the students who makes the biggest difference.

    One Buffalo school principal said, “The school district cannot mandate what
    matters, and what matters most is the ability to love the students.”

    Where do we find such teachers, and how can schools of education deliberately begin to cultivate their students’ souls?

    - Keith W. Frome – Buffalo, May 1, 2007
    (The writer is the National Director of Education for College Summit, a nonprofit
    From The New York Times Editorial/ Letters Page, May 4, 2007

  3. Christina, Showing the student a concrete example with the picture is brilliant. Kids (and adults) have a hard time understanding how to separate the disdain for behaviors while still being loved as a person. I think your idea would be valuable at the high school setting, too. Thanks!