About 10 years ago I was rated by one of my anonymous students on a website. They clicked the appropriate boxes and left this comment: “He’s a total hard-ass, and you will tell him that from time to time…but all of that will pass when you realize that being an **** is just his way of expressing love and respect. Worth taking and you will learn a lot.”
I’ve seen several of those online rating things and I wont comment on the validity of the information provided there, but when I read this one I was a little surprised that this student actually understood what was really going on. Rarely do you hear the word “love” as it applies to the academic setting. Even more rarely do you find a student who comprehends that even when it seems like a little bald sculpture guy is mentally torturing them, that what he is really doing is carving their brain out of love.
I recently read “Love Does” by Bob Goff. Bob is a guy who seems to be one of the happiest men on the planet and a big part of that happiness directly relates to how he interprets the word “love”. See, Bob is a lawyer…he’s also the Honorable Consul to The Republic of Uganda and he spends a great deal of his time figuring out how to stop bad people from trafficking and abusing children around the globe. None of that really screams happiness on the surface. But while Bob does a lot of really big and important things based out of his love for humanity, it’s how he lives out the word “love” on a smaller scale that really resonated with me.
I bet you didn’t tune in here and expect me of all people to be rambling about love did you? And you know, I think that’s part of the problem with love. The word has lost it’s meaning. We’ve been conditioned to think of love as romance or that warm feeling we get from our kids and our dogs. Or we say we love cars and tv shows. We think we know what love is but most often I think we are wrong. Heck, I’ve spent 42 years here on Earth and I’m still learning what it is every day.
Bob Goff smiles at strangers. He works to maintain close relationships with his children. He helps people he barely knows plan and execute amazing and complex marriage proposals. He has a picnic table in Disneyland that he calls his office. He makes people laugh. He gives out his cell number in the back of his book and invites people to call him if he can ever be of help to them. He does all this and more because his default is set at demonstrating love.
There must be an infinite number of ways love can be demonstrated. Of course there are the flowers, cards and special words that make people feel cared for. But it’s important to realize that those things do not necessarily always demonstrate love. It’s not the method, it’s the meaning. How often do we do something nice for someone else and expect something in return? We cant really call that love then can we? More like manipulation. Or a transaction. And that’s how we roll here in the modern world. You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours and then we’ll call that love. It seems to me that real love comes into play when you stand to gain absolutely nothing from demonstrating love.
Which brings us back to teaching. Honestly I’ve never spent much time putting the words teaching and love in the same sentence. Still, I’ve always known that teaching was giving something away or at the very least sharing something with others. I’m lucky enough to work in a department where the faculty members are all personally dedicated and invested. My colleagues do all the things that are expected of them based on their job descriptions and then they really get to work by going above and beyond those expectations. They spend nights each week away from their families to attend student events. They work extra hours to plan and develop extracurricular learning opportunities. They run, play sports and go see art with their students on their own time. They spend their free time coming up with different ways to explain abstract ideas or to help students solve complex problems in the studio. They sacrifice of their own lives in order to give to their students. When I see these things in action I am proud to be a part of it and in light of reading Bob’s book it’s obvious that these teachers are demonstrating their love for their students.
Even when that love looks like not making things easy for the student. Even when that love stresses the student out and makes them think for themselves. And I guess even when that love makes the student call you a “hard-ass”.