The Connection That Matters

By August 3, 2014Education

Across our nation each morning, that door closes. Close to 200 days each year, our children are sitting in classrooms, having been dropped off, delivered, or otherwise brought to, these classrooms for the purpose of learning. And every morning, that door closes. And these children are now in the hands of an adult. That’s the long and short of it.

One of the best hours of my week is the hour I spend every Sunday morning. I have the privilege of teaching 5 year olds at my church. My wife and I volunteer for this because we believe that whatever we can do for preschoolers and their parents is time well invested.

Recently I was talking with our preschoolers about jobs. I asked them if they had any jobs. One child told the rest of the class that her job was to love her Mom and Dad. Immediately every child in the class agreed that their primary job was to love Mom and Dad.

Driving home that day, I thought about how cool it was to be in that time of life when you could confidently state that your greatest job is to love someone. Obviously, those kids just aren’t mature enough to know that loving someone can’t be your job. They’re apparently not intelligent enough yet to know that loving someone can’t be your first answer when asked “what is your job”.

Every morning, that door closes.

Throughout the year, I speak to many groups of teachers. As I consistently state, I love teachers. Often when I’m speaking, I’ll ask them “What is your job?” The answers are textbook-worthy.

Every morning, that door closes.

Oh, I’m a firebrand when I do my job. I challenge anyone to match my capacity to get puffed up and pontificate. I can deliver focused monologue on just what we are after out here. I can scramble and scurry around, busy and bothered. “What is my job?”

Every morning, that door closes.

The kid came back to the room after school one day to ask the teacher a question about the assignment for the following day. He didn’t understand everything that had been discussed during class and he needed the teacher to go back over some of the lesson from that day. His request was met with, “I’m paid to teach it once. If you didn’t get it, that’s not my fault.”

Every morning, that door closes.

I think that the majority of educators today have successfully navigated their college years and certification requirements without once being asked, “Do you love kids?” Now, I also think that the majority of educators today actually do love kids but the absence of the intentional, confrontational question is a factor in a steady decline of teacher engagement and self-efficacy as they increase in years of experience in the field. The question doesn’t get lost in the noise and busyness. The question is never asked.

No element of human relationships is more crucial than love. No characteristic of interactions between all of us is more vital than love. Yet, we don’t talk about it when we’re preparing our teachers. We talk about being relevant, being professional and being organized. We ask them to study the history, the theory and the practice. But, at no time was I ever confronted with the question, “Do you love kids?”

We’re afraid of it. Our society has created such a misshapen and uninformed paradigm of love, we filter the word and the concept through a clogged funnel of skewed perception and misunderstanding. And, as sick as it is, there are evil people who should never be left alone with a child. Those extremes have damaged the ability of good people to even mention the word “love” for children. It creeps us out. And that’s the greatest injustice forced upon those good and honorable people who do belong in those classrooms, who should be teaching our children. They love kids but it’s difficult to express it in this day of predators who lurk at the edges of our worst fears. I hesitate to even give a sincere compliment to young parents about their children in a public place because it just causes red flags. So, we neutralize the concept of love.

And every morning, that door closes.

So, I visited the elementary school tonight that will be the start of a new chapter for us. My oldest grandchild will start kindergarten this year. The other five will follow in the next few years.

Right now, they believe what all preschoolers believe. “My job is to love”. And she will walk into that classroom and sit there with all the others. Her personality has formed during these last 5 years. She doesn’t analyze herself. She doesn’t question why she prefers blue over red. She doesn’t criticize herself for the smallest of things. She is who she is.

But, over the next 5 years, her perception of who she is, that loop that talks to her, will begin speaking. That small voice. And, what happens during these years will create the feedback on that loop. She’s about to be sitting among others and left alone with an adult.

I’ve got open eyes here. Each of my grandchildren owns the whole of my heart. Each is a precious treasure. And the oldest will lead the way for the others. But, like any 5 year old, she’s not perfect. So, Miss Teacher, please don’t tell her that she’s always right when she has to also understand that she could be wrong at times and she needs to know the difference. Please teach her manners, respect, and honor for honorable things. Please teach her about hard work and being kind. Please teach her to be resilient. Please teach her to never lose the wonder of learning new things.

So many jobs, so many pay checks. All in the name of education. Grown-ups, saving the world.

But, very soon, on a late summer morning, that door will close. And nothing out here will matter. It will be you and her.

So, Miss Teacher, you have my permission to love my granddaughter. May you know that as your job.