I remember the moment vividly – I was looking into Cameron’s eyes and on my right, our minister Grant asked, ‘Do you, Rachel Joy Rojas, take Cameron James Herweynen to be your husband?’ I paused, my eyes grew just a bit wider, heart thumping. I took a deep breath… ‘This is it, Rach. Are you ready? This will be for life.’ This conversation in my head ended as I replied ‘I do’.
Three years have passed since that day and marriage has been a mix of the stuff that makes things beautiful. A story for another time. For now, let me share lessons I’ve learnt as a wife that have also helped me as a teacher:
We read about this in Tim Keller’s book ‘The Meaning of Marriage’ and this piece of advice, ‘actions of love lead to feelings of love’ addresses the common error of relying too much on one’s feelings to sustain a relationship. It points out that our feelings are tied to our actions. If you want your feelings to change toward that difficult student, perhaps there’s room for you to be more loving.
Using this principle can also help ensure that we care about students equally. One way we can do this is by writing each child a handwritten note of thanks at the start of the year. This will make us look out for the winning qualities of each child and it whispers to them, ‘I see you. I care for you’.
It is also good to feel love for our entire class. We can occasionally buy presents that are inexpensive and practical. I bought a couple of books for the class that I thought would encourage their creativity. One was ‘Artists, Writers, Thinkers, Dreamers’ by James Gulliver Hancock and the other, an activity book, ‘Let’s Make More Great Placemat Art’ by Marion Deuchar’s.
And of course there are free gifts – tell them you enjoy teaching them! Point out examples that make you so grateful to be teaching them. Another act of love that costs only time and attention? Listen to your students, their stories and worries. Make room for it in your timetable. It’s worth it.
So whenever you find it hard to feel joy in coming to class and you don’t feel overflowing love for your students, make the first move and be loving. Actions of love lead to feelings of love.
Marriage tips always encourage couples to resolve conflict before going to bed. In teaching, the last time we see our students before they go to bed is during the end of their day with us. Do they leave your classroom with a sense of accomplishment and pride? Do they know they are loved and appreciated? Even in our ‘bad days’ when students have been less than obedient, make each parting count. Thank your students for all the good you can think of. Giving specific examples, briefly remind them of the joys and lessons of the day or let them remind you.
Do they leave your classroom with a sense of accomplishment and pride? Do they know they are loved and appreciated? Even in our ‘bad days’ when students have been less than obedient, make each parting count.
My husband would be happy to hear this (but not surprised). Hard to admit as someone who likes to be right but it is true. It’s freeing to recognise this though. There are times when I misread my students’ actions and intentions or I give out a consequence to the wrong person. The quicker I am to admit a mistake and make amends, the better example I am to my students.
This lesson is also good to remember as we teach different content. Students grow more when they are free to ask questions and express their opinions without fear of being squashed or humiliated. We must be educators who can easily admit error and entertain ideas different or even directly opposing ours.
Students grow more when they are free to ask questions and express their opinions without fear of being squashed or humiliated.
Do you need to be more loving towards your class or more positive as you end the school day? Do you need to relinquish the need to always be right?
‘I do.’ 😉