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November 26, 2007 / Ben Chun

Do You Love Kids?

Teachers throw the word “love” around quite a bit when it comes to our students. I suppose it’s natural, when you spend more of your hours in a given day interacting with teenagers than you do with your own peers, to try to find a framing or emotional resonance that feels rewarding. It probably also helps build the personal connections upon which I believe a lot of learning to be based. I’ve even heard people say that if you don’t “love kids” then you have no business in education. And I’m not sure I qualify on that criteria. Do I…

Want to change the historical injustices and inequalities in how education has been offered? Definitely.
Believe that my students’ education is a critical factor in creating the world I want to live in? Deeply.
See their future as inextricably bound to mine? Inevitably.
Work to help them succeed? Quite a lot.
Love them? I don’t know about that.

Now I know there are many teachers who say they love their students, without hesitation, and without any insincerity. I respect those people. I see a lot of them who are very good teachers. What I’m wondering is if it’s necessary. When we say it in this context, do we just mean “care deeply”? Or is there some other emotional component that’s necessary for effective and compassionate education? Am I just asking the unanswerable question, “What is love?” in a different context? I’m curious to hear anyone’s reactions.

3 Comments

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  1. Alfred Thompson / Nov 27 2007 7:15 am

    I think you are asking a bit of the “what is love” question. The more I thought about this post, and I have several times since I first read it, the more I think my feelings could just as well be described as “care deeply.” It’s a tough question though. I do think that teachers have to care deeply about teaching. They have to care deeply about the subject, about sharing their knowledge and yes about the future of their students (in the aggrigate if not as individuals). It probably helps to care deeply about individuals but it may be impossable to really love all of them. Some kids are harder than others to love.

  2. Eric Nguyen / Nov 27 2007 12:37 pm

    Tangent: I’ve found the same question knocking about in my head since my work in the Congo. I felt it was very important. I worked with a number of Congolese people, and saw the suffering of many others. But my emotional connection with most of them was shallow.

    Did I need to care more to do my work? Not necessarily, and in this situation, a deep connection might have even gotten in the way. But ever since returning I still feel like I missed something important.

  3. orange / Nov 27 2007 2:40 pm

    yeah, it sounds like you’re just pointing out a semantic difference in the use of the word love.

    my ‘reaction’ is that i’d be pretty astounded that you could do what you’re doing without having some form of love for the people you’re working with. (but maybe i should just be astounded, because that sounds more interesting :) i worked with kids for a whole bunch of years, and i would say i loved them. but i definitely cared much more about some than about others, and if i were to try to explain my definition of love with respect to the kids, it might end up sounding more like caring deeply for their welfare.

    is it necessary? depends on what kind of teacher you want to be. i think it’s a pretty valuable trait to embody if you want to reach kids who are apathetic about education. but you can be effective without loving your students, i’m sure, as long as you’re really good at being engaging…

    to keep in mind, though: i have always been sensitive to whether people in authority roles ‘like’ me, and i’m sure this is pretty normal. think back on your teachers in grade school and high school and try to categorize them in terms of which ones liked you lots, which ones seemed indifferent, which ones obviously didn’t like you. i don’t have a hard time categorizing mine. and i both worked harder for the teachers who liked me *and* was more interested in listening to what they have to say.

    one could definitely argue that there’s a big difference between ‘like’ and ‘love’, but i think you’ll get my point.

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