As part of the TeachThought February Blog Challenge this week’s prompt is: 

How can we demonstrate love while maintaining boundaries?

I think the early years of our career are so interesting. We have the most enthusiasm and the least baggage.
We will try things, do things, and say things that we will be too reserved to do for the rest of our career in some cases.
That is good. And that is a shame.

And to me, the boundaries were really the line between my abilities as a teacher and my desire to be a good teacher. I always gave 100% toward my class, but when teaching was a struggle, the more I attempted to make up for any academic short-comings by giving more love/support to the students. And as teaching became more natural I recalibrate my efforts.

Professionalism Support Love

The first two years of my career I was the most open to supporting my students in all the ways I could. I attended student events at different houses of worship, had dinner with the families of my students, attended all the sporting events they invited me to, bought books/clothes/toiletries, took them on overnight/week-long filed trips, stayed late for events/conferences, and was all relationship.

I felt a difference in my next school, but being a third year teacher I could not identify yet what was different. It was not as enjoyable, and I knew I could not stay for long. This year the students were so young that I was more demonstrative in the classroom and staying after school for events, so I did not travel to events as much.

Year four brought me back to teaching within 10 miles of my hometown. These were my people, so I had no need to identify what had not felt right the previous year – I was at home (literally) with these students. For years 4-8 of my career I was happy with my instincts on how to demonstrate my love. I still attended events and supported many of them, but not every one of them methodically. My skill in the classroom, my professionalism, my efficiency all were growing exponentially. I was able to support these students with my professional teaching and then I added the support as needed/convenient.

Then year 9 landed me in another district. And I was finally able to identify my pattern. I worked best with the kids who needed me. The lower socio-econic students, the students who did not consistently enjoy consistent support at home. And when I was unhappy I found myself teaching kids who had all their needs met before they showed up at school. I struggled to connect with this group of kids. Those who I did connect with were students I would typically encounter in some of my prior experiences. I was able to really support those students, but the vast majority I supported through teaching as efficiently as possible. I tried to help some with life/school skills, but I think some parents did not like that, so I pulled back for the next three years.

And it is a shame. Because the last of the students I taught are now high school seniors. I am no longer able to support them academically. Had I found a way to establish more of a connection with them I could still be in regular contact with them. I feel like I was so busy trying to strengthen my weakness of effective teaching, I neglected my strength of connecting with students by supporting them.