You can help students believe in themselves, by believing in them. This post series focuses on ways to let your positive expectations show.
Many teachers are squeamish about the idea of “loving” students. Some have tried it and come away despairing over the students’ “ingratitude.” Some worry that the students—or, worse, the toughest element among them—will wind up running the classroom: doesn’t effective education require firm rules and strong discipline? Then there are the horror stories about teacher–student friendships that got so “affectionate” they ended in court cases—and left parents nervous about any teacher giving personal attention to any child.
So what’s a teacher to do with the depressed or shy student, the restless case, the underachiever, the overachiever, or even the “ordinary” kid short on a sense of individualism? You want to help and encourage them—but not by making “allowances” that could result in worse consequences for the whole class.
Good news: it is possible to love your students in ways that are compatible with positive expectations, orderly classrooms, and “propriety.” However, you need to go beyond the common misconception that “love” means indulgence or protecting people from negative feelings. Love doesn’t even have to mean a close personal relationship; at heart, it means respecting others’ dignity and best interests.
Perhaps the best-ever description of the sort of love that enhances positive expectations is in the Bible, 1 Corinthians 13: 4–7. (The italicized phrases below are from the 2015 New Living Translation.)
“Love is patient ...
(even when it has to explain a concept a dozen times)
“... and kind.
(no harsh words in its classroom)
“Love is not jealous ...
(of anyone else’s influence on students, nor of the students’ own achievements)
“... or boastful ...
(no matter how long it’s been teaching or how much better its grades were “when I was your age”)
“... or proud ...
(of its years of experience, its “proven” way of doing things, or any presumed right to go unquestioned without apology)
“... or rude.
(would never think of calling a student “impossible” or “slow,” to their face or behind their back)
“It does not demand its own way.
(listens respectfully to suggestions from students, parents, and peers)
“It is not irritable ...
(is never heard to snap at anyone, even when the day is long and the answer “obvious”)
“... and it keeps no record of being wronged.
(neither holds grudges nor listens to gossip)
“It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.
(cares passionately about fair treatment and personal consideration for all)
“Love never gives up ...
(even when someone repeats a grade for the third year in a row)
“... never loses faith ...
(even in those who fail the “easiest” assignments multiple times)
“... is always hopeful ...
(even for those who cut class on a regular basis)
“... and endures through every circumstance.”
(however much circumstances may tempt it to wonder why it ever wanted to teach)
Take that list as part of your job description, and students will never doubt you care.