Why We Need to Love First and Teach Second
This post was originally published on September 26, 2017, and was updated on July 6, 2020.
Teaching is a challenge. It’s chaotic, overwhelming, stressful. It doesn’t just require hard work; it requires heart work.
I think my fellow teachers know exactly what I mean—we love our kids, but there are so many constant worries. We worry about their progress in the classroom, we worry about them when they’re outside the safety of school… there are so many more I couldn’t begin to list them all.
We keep extra snacks in our desk drawers for those children whose only meals happen at school. We comfort students when they cry, and we celebrate their successes—inside and outside the classroom. We help them learn to believe in themselves.
And we let our kids know we’ll be rooting for them long after they’ve left our classrooms. Because isn’t that really what every teacher wants? To know that these kids we shepherded through their school days have turned into kind, compassionate adults who work hard to make this world a better place?
One of my former students, Ali, is doing just that. As many of you know, I often reach out via social media with pleas for help when I’ve learned of someone in need. Sometimes it’s a former student who’s experiencing hard times, and in many cases, it’s to advocate for an abused or abandoned animal.
Ali is always quick to step up and help in whatever way she can. When a former student was having a tough time finding shelter and general household and personal supplies, Ali reached out and offered bath towels. When I post about animals in need of loving homes, she responds to the post with support and an offer of assistance.
It seems that some of the “heart work” I’d done had made an impact!
Like every teacher, I wanted my students to do well in their academic subjects. But more than anything, I wanted them to be good at life. I wanted each and every one of my kids to leave the classroom believing that who they are matters. And to never lose that belief.
However, It’s not enough to be just compassionate—it’s important to have real, definable skills that can help students who’ve experienced real trauma in their lives outside of the classroom. Trauma-Informed Schools provides training that teachers need to help students who’ve experienced major trauma succeed and flourish in the classroom.
Even the most challenging students can be helped with trauma-informed education and discipline. It helps teachers build resilience in their students, gives them ideas for encouraging positive behavior, and helps them formulate a clear plan to increase student motivation.
While loving our students is important, it’s also crucial to provide them all with the key skills they need to grow into happy, loving adults, no matter the trauma they have experienced. When you put in that heart work and hard work, it pays off.
WANT TO LEARN MORE? Strobel Ed’s Trauma-Informed Schools workshop is showing teachers how to reach and teach even their most challenging students. You’ll learn how to unlock the potential that exists within every student and develop and instructional approach that recognizes and works past the stresses, traumas, and self-imposed mentalities and behaviors that can limit learning and achievement.
One of my favorite stories is about a young man I had last year. Each day as students entered my math class, I would say, “Welcome to Success!” Keynen was very bright and quite frankly, I did not think I had anything to teach him. He knew his math very well and often challenged me with questions that would stretch him a little more each day. At the end of the year, his ELA teacher gave them the assignment to write a thank you note to a teacher. Keynen wrote me and thanked me for my daily invitation to success. He said he had learned more from my life lessons when other students didn’t want to learn or didn’t complete assignments. (I tend to show them how that looks in the real world), and then he wrote, “I know you were not just spouting off words to us because when you said “Welcome to Success” you meant it and gave us all you had every single day! –A big wow for me because I felt like I had struggled ALL YEAR LONG and didn’t have much to offer–especially the “Can Do” kids.
I let him know how his note blessed me.
PS Sorry I didn’t get to attend your PD this week. I asked, but it was not granted to me, although 2 others went. They told me how awesome you were with Growth Mindset! Keep up the fight!
Oh my goodness. I love this story, Lynne! And “Welcome to Success” is a wonderful way to greet them. Thank you for sharing this heartwarming story!