Teachers continue to amaze me in the best possible ways. We have time during the day when students can meet with their teachers for additional support they may need. I love walking around the building during these 30 minute help sessions because I often see teachers working with students individually while playing music and while small groups of students connect and learn with each other. It’s inspiring to see high school students either take the initiative to go see their teachers or commit to visiting a teacher who has requested them. Our students so desperately want to be seen, known, and appreciated just like the rest of us.
Today I visited a classroom with a colleague. The teacher had her back to us and was working with a student 1:1. There were a few other students working and enjoying music and a snack. I smiled at one of them and said, “We just wanted to come and say hi to your teacher.” The student smiled back and without the teacher seeing her, mouthed the words, “I love her,” and pointed to the teacher.
I just got chills typing that. “I love her.”
Hanging on that teacher’s wall is a long, handwritten sheet of craft paper with each student’s name and in one word, what the teacher loves about each of them. I looked at one student and asked, “Where can I find your name and what she loves about you?” She proudly came right over and pointed close to the very top where next to her name was the word, “Positive.” I looked at the ninth grade student and said, “Wow, you display positivity in this class every day?” She smiled and nodded, standing tall and basking proudly in the glory of being recognized her special contribution to that classroom. I could see a couple of other students smiling behind her. They were proud too.
So much love in this class. It started with the teacher. And that teacher’s love made her students feel lovable. That love made them want to love her and love each other.
Mr. Rogers once said, “A love of learning has a lot to do with learning that we are loved.” Love and learning are deeply connected. I continue to savor the book, When You Wonder, You’re Learning by Gregg Behr and Ryan Ryndzewski. At one point early in the text, and I hope I don’t mess this up because I’ve been enjoying it on Audible…they mention a study that showed that children who watched Mr. Rogers responded with language that was more kind than children who had not watched Mr. Rogers. In short, when adults (like Mr. Rogers) model behaviors and kindness for children, children are more likely to learn how to be kind.
It is no surprise in such challenging times that our children across all levels may be struggling with what it means to be kind or to love others. Many adults are struggling with the collective and individual trauma of the past couple of years. There is perhaps no greater example of unkindness than comments on social media platforms.
But the story of this classroom gives me hope. This is the story of a second year, high school teacher who simply shows her students that she cares. Small moves made consistently over time have made students believe in her love and that they are lovable and capable. With that in psychology safety in place, they are learning and learning at high levels. I’ve seen it with my own eyes.
And she’s proud of what she’s doing. It’s clear she loves what she’s doing. It’s not that she doesn’t have hard days. It’s that she has purpose and that purpose gets her through those hard days.
This will look different for all of us. Loving what we are doing and caring for our students. Kids can sense when we aren’t being real. Perhaps we should start by loving ourselves as educators. As Mr. Roger once said, “You can’t love someone else until you love yourself first.” Through all of the hard stuff. The mistakes. The days when we just aren’t feeling it. Then, let’s see if we can find a way to like or dare I say love what we do a bit more. See if we can find a way to like or dare I say love each of our students a bit more.
Kids deserve it.
We all deserve it.
What might you do to get yourself excited about coming to school? To make it feel like a beautiful day in the neighborhood? How might you nurture students in your class, so they feel a bit more seen, valued, and celebrated?
Imagine if every student felt seen, loved, and valued.
Imagine if every educator felt seen, loved, valued.
The world would change.
Let’s all take a step. No step is too small.