Monday, April 14, 2014

L is for Love

"L" is for Love.

While I am writing about educational issues and experiences throughout this blogging challenge, Love fits into this category quite easily for me in a number of ways.   Let me explain.

The love you feel for your spouse or lover is not the same type of love that you, as a teacher, feel for your students. There are, for me, no deep romantic, all-encompassing, irrationally-powerful feelings in my heart for my students as there are for me, with my wife.  She is a teacher, too.  That is how we met.  We both came from other schools to work at a brand new school.  We were members of the same staff for many years. Being young and single, we socialized with our other young, single friends and, eventually, recognized the spark that existed within each other and came together as a couple.  While we no longer work at the same school, we still share our school experiences with each other; acting as confidantes, advisors and sounding boards. She is my best friend. I couldn't imagine my life without her.  Our love is the stuff of poetry; with its' origins in the hallways and classrooms of our school.

There is a second-tier of love that is accorded to the special people in our lives.  This includes our extended family members, our dearest friends and, in some instances, people who appear in our lives from unexpected places and grow into a presence that we can't believe was never there all along.   In my classroom, my feelings toward my students fall into this category.  While I am not their father, I certainly care about the well-being of my students.  Is it a depth of care that could be called love?  In most cases, no.  Some students come and go and their personal contrails barely remaining visible in my sky. However, ever now and again, a student, or family, will come along and I will remember them forever.   Facebook ahs been wonderful in that regard.  Because of it, I have been able to  connect with dozens of wonderful young people and stay involved in their lives, vicariously, through their postings.  It is wonderful to watch these amazing chidlren grow into amazing adults. I have watched them graduate from high schools and universities. I have seen them get married and have chidlren.  I have watched them travel the world.  I have borne witness to them making a positive difference in the world and I couldn't be more proud of them than I am!  But, is that love?  No, not really.  It is love, in a friendship, proud mentor-type of way, I suppose.  I am ok with that.  Those relationships are very fulfilling.

However, there has been one exception to this in my teaching career.  It was something that, at first, appeared to be nothing unusual.  I was teaching in the second grade. I had student in that class who was a very nice little girl.  She was the social leader of her peer group and always did well on the work she was assigned.  She was respectful towards me and always had loads of good ideas when it came time for class discussions.  Consequently, it was easy to be complimentary toward her when it came time for report cards to be sent home.  During the report card interview with her parents that followed, lots of laughter ensued and the seeds of a life-long friendship were planted.  At the end of the school year, I received a wonderful note from this family. With this note was an invitation to come over for a barbeque during the summer.  The Mom said that she didn't want the good relationship they had established with me to have to end just because the school year had ended.  Essentially, she was asking if I wanted to become their family friend.  They were the first family to ever invite me into their lives in such a way.  Normally, I am cautious about entering the private worlds of my students but, they were such friendly folk that I accepted the offer.  That barbeque was the first of, what has turned out to be, a million meals at their home.  We have been a part of each theres lives for well over twenty years now.  I met them before ever meeting my wife and, as a result, they have come to be called, my Ontario Family.  *(For those international friends of mine, I was born and raised in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia, on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. I moved to the province of Ontario...where Toronto is located...as an 18 year old boy and have lived there ever since. My family still resides in Nova Scotia thus, this family became my Ontario family.)

Family is special.  I consider it to be the foundation of a good life.  These people became my Ontario family and have been there for me through thick and thin.  One of the consequences of being adopted into this clan, as it were, was that I gained honourary "Uncle" status with my former student and with her older sister.  I have had the great pleasure of watching both girls grow up into fine, young women. Both are out in the world doing things that make life better for others.  I am incredibly honoured to know them and incredibly proud of what they are doing with their lives.  In both cases, the girls have found their own Love and have gotten married.  I was accorded the high honour of being asked to be the host or emcee of both weddings.  During the course of the youngest daughter's wedding, I ended my remarks with this short story from my classroom life:

"Ladies and Gentlemen, before I hand the microphone over to our DJ for the night, let me close with the following story about Love.  Every day in my classroom, we start our day by reading a letter that I write on chart paper to my students.  Some days this letter is informational and talks about what we will be doing that day in class.  Some days the letter is knowledge-based and contains information that the children need to learn.  Sometimes, the letter of the day, is a pat on the back or a kick in the pants, depending upon what the situation calls for. But, regardless of the type of message contained in the body of the letter, I always end each letter the same way, by signing, "Love, Mr. MacInnes".  At the beginning of the year, every single year, the students will titter and giggle when it comes time to say the closing words, "Love, Mr. MacInnes"; especially the boys.  Eventually someone will always ask, why do you say "Love" at the end of your letters, Mr. MacInnes.  I always reply, without missing a beat, that Love is the most important word in the world and I want you to hear it every single day, spoken by someone who cares about you.   There is nothing more important than Love, Ladies and Gentlemen.  I wish it for all of you. I wish it for my students and, I wish it, especially, for the Bride and Groom."

And, with that, I ended my night, to a round of applause.  I will end this post, as well and, leave any applause to your discretion.  But, applause or not, I fervently believe, with all of my heart, that Love is the most important thing in the world and I do, just as fervently, wish it for you in your lives, wherever you happen to be.    Please leave your thoughts and feelings in the comment box below.  I always appreciate reading what you have to say  :)