A recent thread on a Facebook group has really stuck with me, and I thought I would take some time to reflect and get your thoughts.
Through the years, I have moved around through various positions and grade levels, but in every position one thing remains constant- my love for my students. Whether they were junior high kids or first graders, I developed relationships with them. I cared for them, listened to them, counseled them and in many cases cried with them. On most days, I spend more time with the children in front of me than I do with my own children. I grow to love them.
I teach in an urban setting, with over 95% free lunch. Many of my students do not have stable home lives. Parents in our neighborhood don’t work typical 9-5 jobs. They work when they can, many at night or early in the morning, which leaves some of my students to fend for themselves to get homework done, get ready for school, and get there on time. They try. Bless their little hearts.
When I first started teaching, kids would tell me they loved me. My heart would melt and I would smile and say “thank you.” I was never sure it was appropriate to express my feelings. I felt guilty about it. Truth is, I do love my students. I am invested in them. I celebrate their successes, internalize their sadness, and support them in times of need. I worry about them. Now granted, a junior high telling me they loved me was rare, but it did happen.
So now that I am teaching littles, I have changed. Perhaps it is grown wisdom and experience, or simply being a mother now myself. When a student tells me, “I love you” I say it back, because I do- for all of the reasons I mentioned before, and more. It may be the only “I love you” they hear that day. A kindness that needs to be shared and spread. I am happy that they find my classroom a safe place to make such a heartfelt declaration. That makes me feel like I have done my job, and makes my heart happy. Give it a try, it will make your heart happy, too.