Last night I presented the Board Award in English to an incredible young scholar. This boy has a 97% in AP Literature, has missed only one assignment out of 76 this semester, and is heading to UC Berkeley in the fall.
HIs parents speak Spanish.
His mother and father, beaming with pride, each shook my hand, smiled and nodded their heads profusely. My student says, “They only speak Spanish.”
As a public school teacher in California, this is no shocker but this doesn’t make it any less incredible.
This top scholar of English, mastering the likes of Sylvia Plath, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Mary Shelley has been raised in a Spanish speaking home. Not only did he have to learn English, he then rose through the ranks to reach the highest levels of English literature analysis. This just touches me so deeply.
His parents, were beaming with pride: you really felt the love even if they couldn’t verbally express it to me. I started to think about this powerful learning tool: love.
Love is what gave my student the boost to succeed in school. His father works on a dairy and mother babysits a few days a week; this family did not have the money to send him to prep schools, or SAT tutorials, but they had love and that made all the difference.
What does that mean to us in the classroom? How does the old saying go? “Students need to know that you care before they care what you know.” Love. We need to love them. It’s our only chance. It doesn’t mean that you forego expectations, deadlines, and consequences but it does mean the constant reminder that you are doing this all out of love. I care about you and that means I work hard and you work hard. If I didn’t care, here is a movie and leave me alone.
If you ever poll your students about their favorite teachers, it’s usually a no-brainer. They love the ones that care. They love the ones that know their name. They love the ones that ask them how their day is going or follow up on the baseball game yesterday. They love the ones that have an engaging lesson planned everyday. They love the ones that establish respectful order in their class. They love the ones that love them.
I’m excited to watch my student rise through the ranks of academe. He will no doubt be an asset to UC Berkeley: his keen intellect paired with his flawless bilingualism is a slam dunk for success.
But, I will miss him because...I love him.