On being a loving teacher

When I think back to my high school years and remember the teachers I had, the word ‘loving’ certainly doesn’t come to mind. I had some ferociously strict teachers of whom I can still remember their personality and mannerism to this day. I remember specifically my 7th grade teacher still holding her hand out in front of students’ mouths as they spit their gum out, or how she would pass pack the handwriting sheets and expect us to do them all over again if every little cursive letter wasn’t perfectly written.

As I became a teacher, I told myself that I would never be like them and that I would be a caring and loving teacher who showed compassion and sympathy for who my students were. Seven years later, I can honestly say that I am just as strict, requiring students to tie their shoes and fix their ties. However, I don’t believe that I’m any less loving of a teacher than who I set out to be all those years ago.

I believe that it’s important for teachers to be loving and compassionate and caring and all those things to everyone of their students all their time. When I interact with my students, I imagine that they are my sons and daughters and that I care about their learning experience just as much (or even more so, in some cases) as their parents do. There are three distinct things that I do every day to make sure this that I show this love, and that students know it.

1. Greet students by name

When students are greeted and by name, there’s a certain energy that is released by the teacher that smacks them in the face and tells them ‘Hey! Your teachers loves you!’ Not in a mushy grandmother-y way, but in a way that demonstrates a sincere encumbrance. It’s quite possible that this love may be the only love they get for their entire day as their parents may not show it. Showing them that you care enough to know and address them by their name may even have more psychological effects than you think, and it’s possible that you may even help them indirectly improve their grades or feel more comfortable while at school. Julia G. Thompson suggests that nothing will run smoothly in the classroom without a good teacher-student relationship1)How to Show Your Students that You Care About Them.

It can also be important to address them by their name when giving feedback on an assignment and writing a report. Imagine getting back a report that you worked for days on with a single line: “Great job, Andrew!”, as compared with “Great job!”. Which has carries further in your heart? There is really no comparison.

2. Discipline

This one is tricky. We discipline students because we want to see them succeed in life. We want them to have character traits that will allow them to become upstanding individuals who will (hopefully) change the world. Actually requiring students to follow the rules and meet classroom expectations will train them to be observant of laws, code of ethics and to follow the natural order of our world. Ramon Lewis talks about the increasing crisis in student character2)Lewis, Ramon. ‘Classroom discipline and student responsibility:: The students’ view’.  Teaching and Teacher Education (Vol 17, Issue 3). April 2001. DOI: 10.1016/S0742-051X(00)00059-7.. It can be so easy to be the ‘cool’ teacher and let kids do whatever they want in class. But are we really giving them the best that we can in doing this? I believe the answer to this is an emphatic no.

One of the biggest dangers I see with new teachers is them becoming too friendly with students. Yes, it’s true that we should strive to be their friends and come alongside them in supporting them. But I think a better model of what a teacher should be is that of a parent. Lifting them up with one hand so that they can succeed with all the caring support they can, but also restraining them with the other so that they may learn about the limits and boundaries of our world.

3. Set high expectations

I think another problems we face is too often teachers becoming lazy. We just want to go through the motions by setting the task, giving marks and entering grades. But remember why we are actually here… we are here for the education of our students. Our students deserve more than just what our institutions are providing. They deserve more than just a nine-to-five teachers that counts down the days to the weekend. They deserve more than teachers that are bogged down with paperwork. We should be setting high expectations for our students, and when they are not meeting those expectations, to carefully and lovingly ask them questions and find out why.

The need for being loving and caring teacher has never been greater than it is now. We live in a world that is incredibly apathetic, especially wh Kelly Goodrich suggests that if we want students to take responsibility for their own learning, they must know what is expected of them3)The Importance of Setting Classroom and Student Expectations. I would go one step further and say that if we want to students to care, we must first show that we care – by showing them what it means to care. If we do that, we may just be able to change the way that our students learn, and for good.

Notes   [ + ]

1. How to Show Your Students that You Care About Them
2. Lewis, Ramon. ‘Classroom discipline and student responsibility:: The students’ view’.  Teaching and Teacher Education (Vol 17, Issue 3). April 2001. DOI: 10.1016/S0742-051X(00)00059-7.
3. The Importance of Setting Classroom and Student Expectations

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