Classroom Relationships: Loving all Students
I have professionally been working with children of all ages, from birth to 18, for over 35 years. Most children are easy to love and work with, but not all of them. There have been a few that I have struggled to like, let alone love. Usually these children challenged my authority, bullied other children, were lazy, and extremely dishonest. These were the personality traits that were the hardest for me to personally deal with in children.
Students can Sense Authentic Love
Long ago in my first year of elementary teaching, my principal said to me that my students will work for me and follow my directions the most when they know that I love and care for them. Although, over the years I have found this to be mostly true, even teaching college students, I continue to have students that I find difficult to love, and the hardest, most concerning realization that I have discovered is these students seem to be able to sense that I don’t care for them as much as I care for some of the other students, even when I have always tried my best to not play favorites. It’s very hard to hide those relationships that just come easy and naturally, as they do with some students. Inside of myself, I know that I must love everyone of my students if I expect them to follow me, learn from me, and work for me; in essence, I need to nourish their love for me as well.
Real, authentic love comes from God (1 John 4:8). It’s not a love that relates to society’s definition which speaks of “falling in love,” “being in love,” or “hopelessly in love.” As if people don’t have a choice in the matter. Instead, God’s definition of love is about choosing to give to another person your forgiveness, acceptance, tolerance, faithfulness, loyalty, care, and kindness even if and when they don’t deserve it (1 Cor. 13:4). It’s easy to love those students who demonstrate that they love you back, but the reality is, they don’t all do this, and God wants you to love those who are the most difficult( Luke 6: 32), so what do you do?
Redefine Your Definition of Love
First of all, it is important to redefine your definition of what love is and looks like to match that of God’s (1 Cor. 13:4). When you pray and talk to God, ask him to show you bible passages that will help you to understand love from his perspective (Ps. 32:8). Next, apply what you have learned from God to the relationship with the student that you have found difficult to love (Phil. 4:9). You will need to change your thinking about this student by stopping any thoughts that put this student in a negative light, and add to your mind thoughts that align with God’s perspective of this student (1 Cor. 2:16). Remember that each of your students are God’s children and belong to him (Mark 10:14).
If you really want to help this student, you will work at loving him through God (Ps. 36:5). Many times people think they can hide their true feelings about someone just by not saying anything, but we send messages to others through more than our words, but also our eyes, hands, tone, facial expressions, and body movements and body positioning. Just because they are children, does not mean that they cannot pick up on your true attitude, so your attitude needs to be the first thing to change and the rest will follow. Teaching, like parenting, is first about the relationships you build with your children, and trusting God to mentor and guide you in these relationships (Ps. 73:24), and second about the actual teaching.
International Bible Society (1984). The Holy Bible, New International Version. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.
I have three children and through the years of their primary and secondary education, I remember most the teachers that demonstrated authentic love towards them of which, I am especially grateful to the following: Jan Hall, Jeannie White, Joy Petersen, Sue Nowlan, Christy Hensley, and Theresa Kenser; all of whom were extremely effective teachers.
I would like to thank Dr. Charles F. Stanley for his inspirational messages that I have listened to, read, and studied for almost 20 years. Even though we have never met, his work for God has greatly influenced all areas of my life.