Last weekend I had the privilege to attend the wedding of a friend's daughter. Both the bride and the groom are teachers, and quite talented at their profession from what I understand. As you might expect, many of the friends in attendance were also teachers.
After the ceremony, I was chatting with a few of the young teachers at the reception. They talked about the challenges of dealing with some parents, the volatility of the school board, and long hours required to be most effective. Once the conversation turned to compensation, one teacher commented:
"I would not work for less than I'm making now, because I like kids but I don't love them."
At first this comment really startled me. Perhaps I was surprised that this person would make a statement like that in front of other people as a professional teacher. As both an experienced parent and school administrator, I firmly believe that a love for students is critical for an effective teacher. The lack of genuine love is communicated in the words, actions, and body language of teachers. The best teachers have a HUGE capacity for love and grace.
Would you have been alarmed to hear a teacher make such a statement?
In light of the significant sacrifices and energy required to be an effective teacher, it's hard to imagine doing this job without loving kids. It's a challenge having to prepare lesson plans, grading papers, coaching students through all the the ups and downs of life, etc. This particular teacher worked in a middle school, with the opportunity to greatly influence students during their pre-adolescent and adolescent years--which are of course critical for the foundation for emotional as well as academic intelligences.
I have a very low tolerance for middle school teachers who are sarcastic and critical. The life-long impact of middle school teachers warrants hiring those who have an unusually large amount of love and particularly grace to share.
What do I mean by grace? Grace is that ability to not see the student through the lens of what happened yesterday but instead to refocus the lens on the great expectations of today. Grace enables the great teacher not to see the parent through what was previously said in the heat of the moment, but instead focusing on the collaborative relationship that can be built together to raise, teach and inspire a young student. It's grace because this act of forgiveness hasn't been earned, but is granted anyway because of a higher purpose.