Author AM Scott
Many years ago, one of the most servant hearted leaders and school principals I have had the privilege of working for, gave me what he believed was his best educational and mentoring advice, “Just love the children.”
Just love the children.
Just? Love? Just love? Is that enough to deliver young lives to the world of work as literate and evolved critical thinkers and responsible, productive adults?
Two decades on, that advice has settled to be my inner register and the compass guiding my course. All we do as educators must be driven from the inner meaning we hold around our work. I cannot consider a more compelling purpose to steel educators and allied health professionals working in the child development space than love; now more than ever.
Love conquers all things. It compels us to find solutions to problems and to do so fiercely and relentlessly.
Love is a verb. It is freely given. Kindness is an outward demonstration of love. Acts of kindness come at no cost but our effort. In our homes and in our classrooms, virtual or physical, we can choose to be kind. Likewise, love is a choice.
Love covers a multitude of sins. It comforts and protects. This blanket is greater in its expanse than another’s flaws and weaknesses. Love compels us to see the child and not only the behaviour.
Love is slow to anger. It keeps no record of wrong. Love is unconditional and not contingent on compliance. Rather, it liberates the child to accept consequences of actions, good or bad. It sets parameters for teachers that circle well beyond incidents or episodes. It frees the teacher-learner or parent-school relationships to move past relational challenges if these occur. Reconciliation is rooted in a choice to love.
Love is entwined with faith and hope, giving us courage to look forward and to lay hold of a view to a brighter future. This for ourselves and our young ones. As we, the adults, actively choose to live in the shelter of love, faith and hope, we will help our children find the same courage and calm. Their emotional regulation will mirror ours.
Love sets us free. Love allows the truth and it is the truth that liberates us. The truth is that we are fallible. We are vulnerable. We are human with all the faults and flaws that brings. We are not invincible and we cannot survive as islands. The truth of our disempowerment as individuals in this COVID19 storm is stark but it liberates us to work collaboratively – in our homes, our economy, our faith based and other local communities, our nation and our global village. There is no strength in me, only in we.
Love turns the other cheek. It does not envy and it does not boast. At every level, the point of refreshment in our media and surrounds of late has been the absence of cheap political noise. The self seeking adversarial parties have quietened and the relief is tangible. South African’s are rallying across state and private sectors to hold our precious land together. We have done it before and we take courage that we can do it again. Bringing the point closer to our schools and classrooms, petty niggling, peer group spats and even car park ‘politics’ quietened quickly and is replaced by excitement to see one another, to connect and to appreciate our school ‘family’. If something isn’t perfect, there are more offers of help than snipes of criticism. If something can be better, the solutions and suggestions flow in a spirit of constructive support. In the last month, I’ve seen this between adults and, most beautifully, between the children.
Love goes the extra mile. It is patient, kind and long suffering. Teachers, therapists, administrators, support staff, parents, grandparents, siblings, and learners themselves push past personal fears, insecurities and discomfort to ensure that learning and progress continues. It is this love, this grit, that will ensure we finish the year strong.
Love is the fullness of joy. Here’s where the act of loving children feeds the soul and makes our work as educators worth every minute. Children, if we regard them through a loving lens, bubble with joy and life and freshness and potential.
Love endures. It is the beginning and the end. How we relate to one another is how we hold memory of that relationship. Think about the teachers you remember to this day. They loved you enough to make learning interesting; to prepare for your growth; to hold you to account; to chide and to challenge you to reach your personal best. They loved you enough to be their best selves; to hone their craft; to study more; to push through fatigue and to work thanklessly more often than not. The only other teachers you remember vividly likely left muddy, lacklustre marks on your life and shouldn’t have been in education, truth be told.
So yes, all said and done, of all the things we need to do for our children, loving them is the greatest of all.
Love fears no evil. The positive energy that is love dominates and overcomes fear and uncertainty even in our darkest hour. The world is facing one of its darkest hours. It isn’t the first and it won’t be the last. We need to turn our faces towards the sun, our constant.
At this point in our human history, even our best futurists, economists, scientists, medical experts, military strategists, politicians, faith leaders, celebrities, holy men or gurus cannot see far forward. We are accepting that we will fail forward for a sustained time. All our man made systems, our efforts to be invincible, our systems of control and our pride in advancement are crumbling. The world order is not holding up. Spiritual or not, the words on the tongue of speakers in a hundred languages are that we will never be the same. Our world is different. It is reset. We have another chance at humanity, starting today, now, this instant. We have no choice. To endure this, to hold hope and to overcome, we must cling to love. To see and create a future for our children, we must love them with all our might. Together, this force will enable us to solve the problems we face in educating them, protect them, ensure their best progress and keep them safe.
I turn back to that sage advice I was given so many years ago. Just love the children.
Credit: the title to The Beatles, the advice to Mr Tim Irving, and the lived experience to the staff, children and parents of Bellavista School.