Each Monday began with the same question, “Tell us at least one high and one low since last week.” Snaking around the room, everyone would turn and face each person as they shared. These mini-vignettes allowed each student a glimpse into the funny, intimate, and raw moments of each others lives. As the semester unfolded, the length of the stories ebbed-and-flowed. Some weeks, it took no more than 10 minutes to hear from everyone. Other weeks it took the entire 45 minute period.
Initially the practice began as an accident. One day, during my first year of teaching, I failed to properly prepare for a lesson and quickly realized that what I thought would take the entire period, only took 20 minutes to complete. In an effort to salvage the remainder of the period, I asked the students to share how they were feeling about their first couple weeks as high school freshmen. Those brief exchanges offered me insights that fundamentally changed my teaching that semester. One student shared the joys of starting a new relationship. Another student was still struggling to figure out the bus schedule and was arriving to school hours before it opened. Another boy shared that his parents were getting a divorce and he wasn’t sure how to manage living at different houses.
I had forgotten that my students were real people.
I was so busy teaching them about the life of the Church that I neglected to see the lives of my students.
As the weeks unfolded and the accident became a practice, something remarkable began to occur. Students began to ask more questions without fear of embarrassment. Dynamics in the classroom shifted and students who hadn’t spoken all year, were now raising their hands and chatting before class began. Just as the students started to understand one another differently, I also began to understand my students differently and shifted how I related the curriculum to them. The love that slowly emerged within the classroom prepared us to engage one another and the material with open hearts and minds.
For years institutional educational systems have copied factory assembly lines as a model for how knowledge is constructed. Gathered in rows, students sit straight-laced repetitiously fixing one lesson into the next as the foreman-teacher watches with administrative gaze. This model of education negates the option for critical thinking and forces students to be mindless robots who memorize test questions and fail to integrate the lessons into their life.
As our global society has shifted from factory-form-industry to inter-global-communication, our education requires a shift as well. By integrating love into the classroom, we cultivate a mutual partnership where “teachers are learning while teaching, and students are learning and sharing knowledge” thus maximizing the potential for interpersonal relationships and shifting from the rote factory-banking-system of education.1
Love is ever-evolving and ever-deepening. Love’s integration with education thus allows for learning to be an ever-evolving and ever-deepening process. Where assembly-line learning encourages students to move on after their “part is assembled,” love-integrated learning encourages students to carry the lessons beyond the classroom into continual love-long-learning.
If more educators can institute love as the motivation for their teaching and establish a foundation of love within the classroom, imagine the potential ramification this could cultivate for our society. With loving curiosity we might encounter other people in such a manner that disassembles barriers and “otherness.” Upon a foundation of love, students and individuals might engage a world in such a manner that fosters a healthy environment where all are welcome to participate. From a space of mutual partnership, individual love-long learners might see other people as future teachers and partners rather than competitors or enemies.
By entering classrooms on Mondays motivated by love, students and teachers cultivate a space that carries the “lowness” of our lives and motivates one another into a “high” where our true potential can be reached.
hooks, bell. (2003). Heart to Heart. In Teaching Community: A Pedagogy of Hope. New York: Routledge. pg. 131-132.