Coming off of my year of “teaching love” in Guyana, I came across this quote as I was accepting my current job position half a year ago and stepping into the role of middle school science teacher. The words struck the perfect chord within me, inspiring me to redirect my thinking and how I was going to approach returning to the school that I once worked at and already had a relationship with most of the students. “Be who you needed when you were younger” are a handful of powerful words. The further along I get on my journey of this life, the more I realize that all a child needs in order to be successful in the world is to know that one person truly cares about them.
My best guess is, based off of what I’ve seen and the families that I’ve met, that most of the students in my classes do in fact have people in their lives who care about them, but I know it doesn’t hurt to have one more at school who they spend anywhere between 3 and 10 hours a week with. I’m tooting my own horn a little bit here, but the teacher and person I present to the 30 kids I teach everyday is someone that (I didn’t realize at the time) I really could have used in my life as a pre-teen. It’s fun to look at my job from this unique perspective. I am exactly who I needed when I was 12 and it is so cool to see the light in my students’ eyes when we are just obviously meeting each other on the same wave length. This is the stuff that makes teaching so amusing, so rewarding.
My Own Definition of Love
My title may be Science Teacher, but let’s me real for a second, the undertone of every lesson is love, even if we are just talking about arthropods and mollusks. Somehow I slip the love in between the text and handouts. This, thankfully, did not go unnoticed by some of my students. I figured a couple of the kids in the front row were picking up some of the things I was saying, but I was pleasantly surprised to find out that one of the boys who often gets into mischief was paying more attention than he has ever let on.
While sitting quietly in the chapel at church, watching as a dance practice was happening, this 13-year-old scooted over next to me in the pew and whispered into my ear, “I think I figured out what love is. I have my own definition.”
Despite needing to keep the students quiet, I decided the moment was too pristine to let go. “Oh yeah, what’s that?” I whispered back.
“It’s acceptance and faith. When you accept someone and have faith in them, you love them.”
“Well, I figured everyone that I accept for who they are is important. Even if they have flaws, I still accept them for some reason. And then, if I have faith in someone, that means that I trust them to do the right thing.”
It doesn’t come easy, having the ability to put your faith in another human being, no matter how small the situation may be. It also isn’t exactly a cakewalk to accept someone with your whole heart.
“So you have to accept people, flaws and all?”
“Yeah. Maybe that’s why loving people doesn’t always come easy.”
“So, what do you think?”
“I think you’ve got it, kid.”