If you've ever read me before, you know by now that I am a high school Spanish teacher and a Student Council Advisor. I LOVE teaching. I love the a-ha moments when a kid finally gets it, I love it when they answer their own questions. I love playing and speaking and listening and being with these students. And I'm tough. I have high expectations, and I don't back down from them. I show grace, but also accountability. And usually, my students rise to the occasion.
The real reason I love teaching though, is that I love my kids.
I just love them.
Some of them are in desperate need of that, you know.
Every so often I hold a pow-wow. We turn the flourescent lights off, gather up in a circle, put on some mellow music, and talk about life. Stories range from the mundane to the silly to upcoming events and athletic tryouts.... and then someone shares something big. My parents are getting a divorce. My dad has been deployed for a year and is coming home this weekend, and I'm scared of how things will change. My mom has cancer. My friends are into drugs and alcohol, and it's hard for me to stay away from it.
The atmosphere in the room completely changes. There's a spirit of love that flows out from each student, almost immediately. They begin comforting each other, sharing stories of how they've dealt with similar circumstances, giving advice.
Don't get me wrong - someone always throws in a funny story or two in the midst of the serious that sets us all to laughing hysterically - it's not a depressing pow-wow.
When the pow-wow is nearing it's natural end (be it a feeling or the end of class approaching), I insist we end on a positive note. Each person shares something they love about their life, and the smiles and laughter finish out the pow-wow. They hug each other and walk out of the room feeling connected and cared for, some of them for the first time in a while.
I love pow-wow.
What most impresses me is that I never lead them to share deeply. Given the opportunity to do so, they just do. I don't tell them, hey, encourage him, hug her. They just do it. I don't prompt them to share their similar stories and make supportive connections. They just do. They are dying to be loved, to know that others care, and to show that they care, too.
Some teachers would say pow-wow is an irresponsible use of my time. I say not. I'm teaching them to be people, not just to conjugate verbs. In 10 years, they won't remember half of anything from my class, but maybe they'll remember what it felt like to be heard, to listen to others, to show and be shown love.
And maybe they'll do the same for someone else.
The day of a recent pow-wow, a boy (a cool, tough, basketball playing, has-it-all-together boy) came to class with a class-transfer paper. He'd switched in at semester and, after a couple of weeks, decided it was too hard for him and was going to switch to an easier teacher. At the end of the class period, after sharing and listening, he looked at me and simply said, "I'm staying." The next class day he walked in with his transfer paper, tore it up, and threw it away. He had experienced pow-wow. And love.
Now, I'm not saying I am wonderful, or that I'm doing anything special or worthy of praise.
What I am saying is that I love teaching. I work with kids who, although they are punky little pains sometimes, have a lot more to them then I'd know if we didn't pow-wow.
And they are full of love, ready to give it, if someone just would show them how.
Joining in on the conversation "Love is a Verb" over at InCourage.