The thesis I am proposing to write and research will be focused on kindness and love within education. I am particularly interested in reflecting on my own ways of loving and showing kindness and care within my calling as a teacher. I am interested in what love might entail for one individual teacher, that teacher being me. In particular, I am asking questions. Questions such as these: when love is the standard within the classroom, what does love allow? What doors does it open? What possibilities does it enable? What then happens when love is removed? What remedies are available to account for the absence of love? What ways does kindness and an ethic of care transform classrooms? Should there be a choice made between academics and love? Can both be chosen and still enable teachers and students to thrive? And if so, how is this accomplished?
But first, one might ask the following question: what is love? Is this warm, fuzzy, sweet-talking love that always pleases? Is this feel-good, low-pressure therapeutic love that focuses solely on self at the expense of all else? What is love, anyway? It means so many different things to so many different people. When I refer to love in my writing, I would want it to be understood to be that which is the deepest emotion known to humankind. Something so over-arching, all-encompassing and profound that it permeates our very being as educators. When I speak of love, I am talking about everything which is good in this world, which could be then funnelled into our being so as to inspire, motivate, compel, arouse, encourage, stimulate, provoke and stir up whatever might lie dormant within us. So as to awaken whatever might lie fallow. So as to stir to life whatever is ready for rebirth and development.
Love as an emotion is often highly undervalued in education. Certainly we embrace it in its place, but it is always put into a neat, little box and asked to sit there until it might be of use. It is not always on top of lists of priorities or main concerns when it comes down to the academic milieu. In fact, love might very well be at the bottom of the list for some, as is often expressed by friends and colleagues. It is so often undervalued, as shown through statements that contend that it (love) is a lesser motivation for a teacher’s purpose in offering an education to their child. After all, our job as teachers is to deliver curriculum. To teach the standards. Expound the outcomes. We are expected to deliver on the core fundamentals of a solid education- the arts and the sciences. And in doing so, prepare our students for the workforce.
But what if love was the standard by which everything else was measured? What if love made me a better teacher? What if love made my students better students? What if love made people better, just through experiencing it?
What if the love I showed in my care and concern, in my kindness for students- what if it then allowed me to, in love, inspire them to have a passion for language, for prose? For nuances in words? A passion for poetry, literature and classical writing? What if love opened a door to enable me to share with my students a passion for mathematics? For precision and exactness? For reasoning and rationalizing? What if love paved that way? What if love gave me the inch that could buy a mile? What if love was what every foundation I built upon? What if love was everything? In everything, through everything about everything? What if love was the reason?
What if kindness was the channel to everything good we might know inside the four walls of our classrooms? What if it was the enabler? The spark that lit the fire?
Can we ever really know for sure if love is the catalyst in making the difference- or not-when we who have always known love are the ones calling for less of it? When we who have always had love at our fingertips are the very ones saying it is unnecessary? When we who are deeply loved, who have always had love at our disposal, are the very ones saying it is a drain on academics and learning? The ones saying it is keeping us as schools from excelling? And by what standards, might it be asked, are we failing to meet those academic standards? And if so, who are the ones who care the most about this demise? Truly it must be asked: are we really in any position to say that love isn’t necessary when we are the very ones who’ve always had enough ourselves? What if one person`s call for less love was the unravelling of that one student who could have been destined for great things, but because love was removed, then became a hardened, bitter being?
Who are we to say?
What I hope to accomplish with this thesis is to start looking for evidence that these questions I am asking are validating ones and that they are steering me in the right direction. I would hope that the audience I am writing for would be educators like myself who are striving to be transformational teachers as well and who want to ask hard questions of themselves along with similarly deep and penetrating questions of those practicing within the field of education. What I would hope to accomplish with this thesis, as has been discussed previously, would be to write a series of short chapters that might compile a book, which I would then hope to publish. I am eager and ready to start.
In speaking of fear. Here are a few thoughts I wrote recently which I will use to premise the more concrete fears I have in writing my thesis.
Fear and Love
Fear cripples. It kicks us in the gut. Knocks us over. Tries to beat us down. Tries to throw down, push down. Topple. Fear tells us, “You’re nothing. No one cares what you have to say.”
Fear wreaks havoc with our confidence. It says, “You can’t do this, you’re not able.” It taunts and laughs and mocks and ridicules. It jeers while looking straight in the eye.
Fear paralyzes. It grips the heart. It shouts, “You’re not enough.” Its raison d’etre, its very life work: is to destroy, diminish, decimate. Obliterate.
Fear often seems too big to face.
It intimidates, threatens, terrorizes, petrifies.
But Fear facing its greatest obstacle is no opponent able to stand.
When Fear faces Love, Fear crumbles.
Love is the opposing EVERYTHING to fear. Its equal and opposite.
Love is: patient, kind, humble. Gracious. Love is pure. Love is joyful, enduring, hopeful, believing. Unfailing. Love is victorious.
For Love conquers. Love wins every time. Love is in all, through all and over all. Love is everything. And Love looks Fear in the eye and says nothing at all. Because Love has nothing to prove. Love has no need to make a show. For Love has already won. The battle is over.
Love has already won.
In writing a thesis, there is fear of unknowns. What will the process entail? Am I up for this? Can I really do this? Will I have anything to say that is worthwhile contributing to the breadth and depth of understanding out there in the wider world on ethics of care in the classroom? Will I ever finish this formidable assignment—and on time? What will it be like to defend my heart and soul in a formal Thesis Defence, before those with more understanding on the topics of interest than mine? Will I cave under the pressure? Will I faint?
My thesis is on love in the classroom. It is on Ethics of Care. I hope that in focusing on Love and Care and Kindness, I will bolster my own reserves of such and in so doing, resist the urge to succumb to Fear. I am hopeful that Love will win out over Fear in my own writing and reflecting. And that Fear will be used to perfect and better my impulse to Love, rather than to eliminate it. I want to feel Love’s presence- its comfort. Even in the face of fear. As well, in writing this thesis paper, I hope to better understand that Love enables those of us who desire such- to put Fear in its proper place; and to indeed do the very Hard Things of which we write. I would never wish for everything in my academic journey to be easy- I would never grow and change, if that were to be the case. Things we might even be petrified of are often pivotal to our greatest moments of growth and discovery. In facing our fears, we are better able to support the Love we want to win out in the end.
At least, that’s the hope that I cling to.