Wednesday, October 27, 2010

"I just LOVE children!"

When I was teaching college undergraduates, I got to know them as they entered the teacher education program.  One of the questions we would ask them to complete on a "getting to know you" form is "Why do you want to work in early childhood?"  The answer almost across the board was the inevitable, "because I LOVE children!"  Sometimes there were various descriptives that went with that answer--children are so honest, they're so sweet, they're so loving, etc.--but it all boiled down to a love for children.
By the time students left their teacher education programs, they were able to articulate a clearer point of view about why they wanted to teach, and it didn't just involve a love of children.  It involved the process of education, of teaching and learning, of journeying together down a new path and facilitating discoveries along the way.  THAT'S what teaching is about.

If your child is school-aged and you're reading this, you've probably encountered at least one or two teachers who really LOVE children.  I would argue, that in the absence of abusive tendencies, it's really no better to have a teacher who LOVES children than a teacher who doesn't.  Teachers who don't love children but are not mean are usually focused on the educational material more heavily than those who need to love and be loved by their students.  When I was in high school, one of my best English teachers could have given a bleep less if we showed up in her class or not.  She was an older woman, smoked unfiltered cigarettes, and knew her material in and out.  I learned more from her than I did from a lot of my other teachers, but mainly I learned that not everybody had to love me to motivate me.  She didn't get paid to love me.  She got paid to teach.  And she was good at it.

Having spent time in a lot of public schools, both as an observer and as a parent, I have seen teachers fall  across the board in their skills in teaching as well as their interpersonal skills.  My own children have had teachers who just LOVE their classes.  Teachers who get stuck in the love trap often lose sight of the main goal of education:  to educate the child.  It's nearly as bad as having a teacher who is apathetic (which, by the way, our country has plenty of and many are hiding out in low-income school districts).  I've always preached to my students that if you LOVE children, you should become a parent.  If you LOVE teaching, you should become a teacher.

Right about now,you're probably saying, "Wait a minute,'ve always gone on and on about this rapport you're saying teachers shouldn't love their students?"  Nope.  Not my message at all.  Teachers who have good rapport with their students tend to naturally care about them and fall in love with them in a sweet kind of way.  That's part of building and having rapport.  But those teachers also understand that rapport is a step to the major goal of education, instead of getting stuck in the "love game".  Some adults are so needy for affection that they focus solely on providing for the emotional needs of their students (as well as themselves) and can't see past those needs.  Learning becomes secondary to "feeling good".  These teachers often discipline through whining, empty threats, and an occasional punishment for the whole class--for which they feel extremely guilty over later, and feel the need to reassure the children that they love them immensely.  That's teaching, but not the kind you want to do--you're sending crazy messages all over the place about misplaced priorities and your inability to follow through, and most of all, that the purpose of the classroom being a learning one is secondary to everything else.

A parents' primary job is to love their kids.  We're supposed to think our kids are the best, the smartest, the funniest people out there.  We're supposed to want to share their antics with anyone who will listen, even when their antics are ridiculously wrong.  We discipline BECAUSE we love them and want them to be good, successful, happy people when they are adults.  A teacher's job is to teach.  Granted, there is some overlap, but the purpose of teaching is never, ever to "love children".

If that's your purpose, go rock babies in the ICU ward of your local hospital, volunteer in your church nursery, or if you have the funds, make your own.  But for heaven's sake, don't make yourself responsible for their education.

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  1. Oh My Goodness, I am so excited you have a blog!!! I am also very excited that it is about early childhood, this will make for great reading/thinking! I hope all is well! =)

  2. Thanks! It's so much fun...and I hope it does open good conversation with people about lots of different subjects!