“No matter how dirty your past is, your future is still spotless.” This quote was shared with us by Basil Marin at the ASCD Empower 2019 conference. Words like this give hope to “unreachable” students. Marin says there are reasons for student disengagement in school: stressful home situations, education gaps, lack of cultural relevance & awareness, low self-efficacy, the curriculum… To engage students, Marin suggests that we respond with LOVE:
L – Listen to kids
O – Observe them
V – Value them
E – Empower them
Basil got me to thinking about teachers. “Hard to reach kids” gives us a window into the greatness of some teachers. I am always amazed when I see a teacher touch the heart of a child who is pushing everyone away and fights the learning process. These children often fight everything and everyone. They do not trust. Trust is the big word here. They will only begin to come around, when they begin to gain trust. And even when you think you have gained their trust, they will continue to test you. This is such a hard process. Even the great teachers become frustrated and discouraged. They come close to giving up. But the difference between a great teacher and an “ordinary” teacher – is the great teacher continues the battle even when the war seems lost.
What does love in the classroom really mean?” When we deal with these kids who show little love for teachers and for learning, how do we instill in them a sense of purpose and caring? Marin has it right – we do it by loving them. That’s exactly what Christ did for His people. His people who denied Him, walked away from Him, betrayed Him, crucified Him – Jesus loved them in spite of it all. Some hearts were changed forever – others were not.
Teachers love and teach their students, sometimes not seeing the outcome of their work. They continue to work in the best interest of students not knowing the impact they will one day have on the lives of their students. They often work in a state of “faith.”
Teaching with love means you do your best with students knowing that you may not see the end result. Love also means caring enough to take action. We may feel sorry for the student, but we must continue to have high expectations. As we love them – yes, we hold them accountable. We show love and caring, yet we also mold the mind and the character. Otherwise – they are still lost. Love is not enough. Or better yet, LOVE shows kids that we care enough to shape them into people who can contribute to society in a meaningful way. We don’t want our “hard to reach” kids to "fail" in life. We want them to see the beauty inside themselves and to see their potential. So we give them a kind of love that accepts who they are, where they came from, and we work to give them a brighter future – a future filled with hope.
We must help them understand that the love we give them doesn’t mean they will never suffer again. It doesn’t mean that they won’t have any more struggles or failures. The love we give them shows them that there is hope when all seems lost. There are people who love them. If one has chosen wisely, “true” friends will be there to support them and love them in their good moments and not so good moments. Our love helps them to trust once again – a trust that knows someone cares and they can risk loving others too.
As great educators have said so many times – real learning begins with relationships. It begins with LOVE, a love that takes action!