To teach with heart- formidable task as that might be with the outcomes and core curricular goals driving our attention. But teaching with heart is the one, sure way through; it is the one way forward and the only way out for some of our students. Halted as they might be by circumstances, events, issues and concerns which lie far beyond their control. Deterred: they are not all lost forever. For teaching with heart is often the roadmap that draws these students back on track. That keeps them focused.
It’s what leads them home.
I recently wrote a letter. December 2013, to be exact. It was an unassuming note, really. And I wrote it and lost track of it over the Christmas holidays. That attempt of mine to move myself beyond stagnancy. To reach out. To propel myself forward- up and out. It was not for nothing- for I had written that letter so as to connect. That letter was meant for an audience of one. But it came to be written for many. It came to be read by many. And as I have sat and read comment after comment here on this blog responding to that one particular letter I wrote that wintery December evening, I have also come to realize this: people long for love. Long to be cared for. Long to be noticed. Because we all want to be recognized for the unique individuals we truly are. We want to be challenged- inspired, motivated and stirred to greatness. We want to learn the subject of love- to study it, absorb it, reflect it. We crave it with every fibre of our being. For above all things- at the very essence of our core being is a desire to be cherished. And we want that cherishing- that love: to be compassionate and gentle at times, tough and accountable at others. Firm yet tender. Understanding, patient and intentional. Perfect in its scope. We want love to be everything, yet limited to nothing. And while we know that love is such a very small word, we also know that it holds meaning of gigantic proportions.
And yet we realize that all too often, love is so misunderstood. Talked about romantically, familial-ly, intimately. Adored and abhorred. But still it remains- it is what we crave.
The kind of love of which I wrote that December day was a love that roots- that champions. That stands beside and cheers. That moves people. That expects much and receives much. That inspires. I was looking for it. Looking for ways to love, even within a profession that at times has become bewildered with expectations to demand and require. We are asked sometimes to do anything but love. Writing that letter was my attempt, humble as that attempt might be, to find love- indeed to understand love in its most encompassing definition. It was what I had come to expect from my parents, spouse- family and friends. And yet, I had also come to presume this kind of love should also emanate from our professionals. And since I am one: from our teachers.
But of course it should. For love at its purest, most fragile form is that which is completely focused on the other. Love is about serving. Love is about people.
There is within my heart a longing. And that longing might soon be realized. For I believe that we are on the precipice. We are at a turning. There is coming a pivotal moment in our educational history when we will see what learning was and what learning will become. And it will be founded on love. For when we love, we are empowered. When we love, tides start to turn. Love is the answer.
We have come to expect that our job is about transfer of knowledge and skills, but teachers want more than this; we must remember: teaching at it’s purest essence is about learning to love. Learning to love ourselves, love each other and love the world. Teachers, we must gain freedom from our curricular encroachment so as to learn to love again. We seek release from the bondage that shackles us in chains. We want to take flight once again- to soar high above where open skies welcome us with promise. Where we see our potential as agents for change. We do not wish to be enslaved any longer.
It is for the good of our students that we stand united. It is for love.
Because love is what we crave.
After I sent that letter, I received dozens of letters back. The one that caught my eye was hers. It was honest, open and heartfelt. I sensed from within her a longing to be that kind of teacher. And longing stemming from great depths of care. From a heart of love. Through several exchanges, her letter came to the surface as well. And her message that we must not stifle our brightest and our best was not lost on me either. We must remember- from the newest teacher through to the veteran. To teach with heart.
It is the only way home.