Opinion
Recruitment & Retention Opinion

Love and Teaching: A Transformational Connection

February 13, 2017 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

By Josh Parker

“There’s no word in the language I revere more than ‘teacher.’ My heart sings when a kid refers to me as his teacher, and it always has. I’ve honored myself and the entire family of man by becoming a teacher.” Pat Conroy

If justice is what love looks like in public, as Dr. Cornel West says, then teaching is what love looks like in practice. Teaching children well is proof of the love that we have for children, for society, and for the future of the world. Expertise, maturity and ethics may be the branches, but the root of even these disciplines is a deep and abiding love for the profession itself.

As educators, administrators and district leaders, we bring our whole heart to the mission of improving the learning experiences of all children; and when we leave the profession, we leave our hearts in the schoolhouse. (In fact, it is not uncommon for substitute teachers, consultants and even volunteers inside a school to be retired teachers). Loving teaching is the mark of being a dedicated educator. In the three

vignettes that follow, I wish to show the transformative power of teaching. Some of the examples are from my own experience and some are from my colleagues. The common thread among all is love.

To Love Teaching is to Love the Process of Getting Better

“That will be 1.65 sir,” the bus driver said to me at 5:50 a.m. nearly 12 years ago. As I walked to my usual spot at the back of the bus, I slung the box of papers I carried with me from the night before. I would ride this bus into downtown Baltimore and then catch another one into the outer reaches of the city.

“Hi, Mr. Parker!” students and teachers would yell as I scurried into class to begin the day of teaching. I would repeat this process each day until I got a car—nearly three months into my first year of teaching. My early mornings and late nights were filled with planning and all the time in between was jammed with earnest attempts to put the two together to form cohesive instruction. It was in this process that I learned the true hours of operation for a teacher—from the moment you wake up, to the moment you go to sleep. Even in all of the educational leadership roles since then, my commitment to a process of improvement that has been the strongest lever of support in my career. “You have to fall in love with the process of becoming great,” NBA Star Blake Griffin once said. He was right.

To Love Teaching is to Love the Children that Come Through Your Doors

“Mr. Parker, can I ask you a question?” a young man said class spoke up while everyone else was quietly completed their assignment. “You really love us don’t you?” I was a bit surprised, but smiled in response. “Of course I do, what makes you say that?”

“Well, you are here almost every day, you dress up like you’re going to church, and you help us when we have problems,” the young man said.

I have taught disruptive students, unruly students, perfect students, hurting students and every other type of student in between. What touches them is not the teachers’ expertise, but the approach. Treat them. Talk to them. Listen. The love and empathy in your heart for who they are is the sanctifying quality of transformative instruction.

To Love Teaching is to Love the Ways it Breaks Your Heart

“He was trying to throw me off,” a high schooler said to me recently. His eyes narrow and focused, his lips pursed and tense, his fist balled tightly and securely, he said this to me through tears. “I wasn’t even trying to fight him, but he just kept talking.”

My heart breaks every time I have to break up a fight or see a student in distress. I feel such loss whenever a student reveals that they cannot read or write well, despite being in school for over 10 years. These heart-breaking moments keep me connected to the fight for improving the outcomes of children - both educationally and socially. Activist and author Bryan Stevenson says that ‘we must become proximate to pain to build the capacity to help the least of these among us.’ It is our close connection to the ways the profession can hurt us, squeeze us and push us to the limit that can ultimately fuel our drive to making education work for all children.

What may be most absent from the education reform conversation is a focus on the love of teaching itself. Not a love of the public schools versus charter schools. Not a love of one

political perspective over another. Not a love of one solution at the expense of another. I’m talking about a fundamental love of teaching itself. If we all embrace and appreciate the hour-by-hour, year-by-year sacrifice educators make to ensure that children from every zip code, ethnicity, perspective and orientation get a quality education, maybe we can fall in love with the promise of teaching all over again. What will save teaching is teaching.

Josh Parker is the 2012 Maryland State Teacher of the Year and a member of Board of Directors for the National Network of State Teachers of the Year. He currently serves as an instructional coach for the District of Columbia Public Schools.

Source: Image by Flickr user Angela licensed under Creative Commons

The opinions expressed in Teacher-Leader Voices are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

Events

Jobs Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Achievement Webinar
Mission Possible: Saving Time While Improving Student Outcomes
Learn how district leaders are maximizing instructional time and finding the best resources for student success through their MTSS framework.
Content provided by Panorama Education
Reading & Literacy K-12 Essentials Forum Writing and the Science of Reading
Join us for this free event as we highlight and discuss the intersection of reading and writing with Education Week reporters and expert guests.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Recruitment & Retention Leader To Learn From Want to Recruit Male Teachers of Color? Look to This New York City Leader
Chimere Stephens, who leads recruitment of men of color for the New York City schools, believes in starting with high school students.
9 min read
Chimere Stephens, the Director of NYC Men Teach at the NYC Department of Education, reads a book to a class of first grade students at PS 55 elementary school in the Bronx, New York., January 19, 2023.
Chimere Stephens, the director of NYC Men Teach at the NYC Department of Education, reads a book to a class of 1st grade students in January at PS 55 elementary school.
Mostafa Bassim for Education Week
Recruitment & Retention What Educators Look For in a Job (Besides Pay and Workloads)
A survey gives insight on factors that cause teachers to consider leaving or accept a job offer.
3 min read
Photo illustration of blocks representing individuals clustering around a highlighted block.
iStock/Getty images
Recruitment & Retention 4 Actions Districts and States Can Take to Increase Staff Diversity
A report offers concrete steps for districts, charter organizations, and states to boost the racial diversity of their K-12 workforce.
5 min read
Image of diverse hands in a team huddle.
melitas/iStock/Getty
Recruitment & Retention What Districts Can Do to Prevent Teachers From Quitting Mid-Year
Routine, actionable feedback and small gestures of appreciation go a long way, superintendents say
5 min read
Illustration of woman exiting room.
iStock / Getty Images Plus