Thursday, August 13, 2009

Do You Think We’ll Ever Know…?

It was like any and all parties. Food scents wafting. People congregating and velcroing themselves to the people they know. Shop talk taking precedence over world events. I was cozying in to the corner trying to meld in with a group of mostly strangers. Upon hearing this snippet of conversation my I was intrigued.
“Do you think we’ll ever know if what we did made a difference?" She was intense in her delivery. Her wiry frame spastic with the subject of conversation. She became edgier, more furtive when I a stranger who had overheard this question interrupted her to ask “What did you do? “
Her eyes dart about. She scrutinizes me. Am I a friend or foe? Am I with the state?
She ignores my question, slip sliding away in another direction. But I am Agatha Christie now.
“Do you think they’ll ever know” is my body on the floor, inviting an investigation.
I thrust into the conversation, repeating the question. (“I need the facts, just the facts ma’am”) She looks about to see if there are any informants at this garden party.
She is almost inaudible in her reply, “We loved them.”
“We loved them to the best of our ability and I just wish I knew if this made any difference in their lives.”
We loved them! That is the big secret. This woman had been a Para professional at a suburban elementary school. The party was a retirement celebration for a highly regarded music teacher. Most all the guests were educators. This all furtive, almost paranoid teacher has said aloud to a stranger what all good teachers know. The secret ingredient to the curriculum is “love. “
We do not talk about it. There is no public discourse. No benchmarks in the GLECS (grade level educational curriculum standards). No section in the best practice guide. It just floats about like the colonels’ “secret ingredient” for KFC.
Love…so simple, yet so circumspect.
I looked at this woman, her brown eyes afire. “You loved them?”
She a child caught in a deceit gave up the whole story. She and her lead teacher frustrated with their “at risk” students failure to achieve and perform on standardized expectations or even to conform to classroom normative behavior began an experiment. They decide to shower and envelope their students with positive words and energy. They attended proactively to their relationships with these students making time to attend to their inner lives and world. Mirroring only what was best , great in them. (No child left to fail.)
“We loved them and I always wondered if this had any long term effect?” (Those Texas bookmakers cannot package this, test this and resells it back to us.)
She drifts back to her table….wondering if her holy grail of learning is indeed what makes a difference.
The highly esteemed Nobel laureate, Mother Theresa of India was celebrated for her efforts on behalf of the starving children of India. The poverty abysmal. She the boy with his finger in the dyke to hold back the sea. When asked about the futileness of her endeavors to stave off the hungers of these impoverished children. She retorted “Oh it is not my mission to feed them it is my intention to love them”
So it is. The essential ingredient to learning is regard and reverence towards these souls in our charge. Which I believe translates into love.

It is time for the public discourse to acknowledge that these students come to school with an interior self
That the child has a sense of purpose, of self that longs to connect to their own soul and hungers to be “seen and tended to” by those who steward them to adulthood and citizenship.

And given this definition of Love as defined by A deep, tender, ineffable feeling of affection and solicitude toward a person, such as that arising from kinship, recognition of attractive qualities, or a sense of underlying oneness.

Then is not our work to love them?


  1. Beautifully written my friend. I wonder why so many stray from the knowledge that the children in their class only desire what their teachers want themselves-to be seen, to be known, to be loved. Love is the easy part. So many are mistaken to think that the job is to impart great knowledge. The only thing the children will remember is if we laughed and noticed that they were sitting in front of us. They'll remember if we said hello and used their name, if we took time to talk instead of lecture. They'll remember if we were humble and genuine. They'll remember love.

  2. Thank you for sharing. I've been researching the concept of love in relation to teaching.

    Paulo Freire says:
    “It is impossible to teach without the courage to try a thousand times before giving up. In short, it is impossible to teach without a forged, invented, and well-thought-out capacity to love. (Freire, 1998, p.3)

    Check out my blog for more on the topic: