Grauer teachers have long repeated, almost like a mantra: “We love our students!” However, it’s not all that common to talk about love at school. What causes this hesitation to talk about one of the most basic human emotions in a school setting?
Dr. Grauer's Column - Can We Talk About Love At School?
Can We Talk About Love At School?
On Valentine’s Day, the day of love, The Grauer School held our 14th annual Tolerance Day celebration. I love that these two themes are coinciding this year. They are like two peas in a pod. This week, in concert with the two events, Dr. Tricia Valeski’s Psychology class asked, “What is your definition of love?”, followed by coverage of the Stanford University Center for Cognitive and Neurobiological Imaging’s fascinating “competition on love.”
It’s not all that common to talk about love at school. Is that weird? Let’s talk about that.
Grauer teachers have long repeated, almost like a mantra: “We love our students!” We know, that’s unusual. Historically teachers avoid referring to love of students because the term love is ambiguous. Many people are afraid of love, as though it were a controlled substance. And yet, we can’t imagine our lives without our students! Love is obviously a compelling phenomenon and a key to human existence and health, so how could it not be covered in school? When our teachers talk about this, I think what they are saying is, sure, there is an intellectual curriculum we have to provide for our students, but there is an emotional one, every bit as much: genius is the highest achievement of the former, love is the highest achievement of the latter.
And happiness is when they balance.
I also think that it has to be a given that experiencing or expressing love is one of the essential purposes of the arts, so how can we not teach that?
Romantic love is often said to entail triggering the dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin pathways in the brain. That describes what our students naturally feel in some of their youthful attractions. And yet, expressing that kind of love is discouraged in schools because so many of us are scared there could be exclusive or intimate behaviors that are not appropriate on campus. It’s out of control hormones.
Among parents and teachers, some character and personality types require more controls than other types. Tolerance is understanding that. As a ninth grader expressed at Tolerance Day, tolerance might entail “to be able to comfortable with the uncomfortable.” In this way, The Grauer School has always tried to be a liberating and trusting force for kids, encouraging them to take reasonable risks, and to bet on their goodness despite those risks, hence we are a less restrictive environment than some people want.
Personally, I think that young love leads some of our young people to the most beautiful experiences of their whole lives and I don’t feel scared of it. Of course, I also know that love can lead to heartbreak, triggering student emotions that all teachers have to deal with from time to time, and that is tough. So, teachers of teens ought to understand love. How sad and ironic that losing something or someone makes us even more aware of how much we loved them.
Similarly, how tragic that we cannot express what we deeply feel for fear of rejection or loss. I hope The Grauer School will be a place of inviting and accepting love, and I hope I am that way, too, along with our teachers and staff. Like Grauer Junior Kai A. says, “When you feel like you can be yourself around someone and know that they will not judge you.”
Are we that way? Here is a thought experiment, although I could call it a feeling experiment just as easily. Imagine someone at school who you think exudes love, who you feel love from, who has love in their heart, who you want love from, or who makes your heart feel a little lighter? Now ask yourself: is that okay at school? Sometimes at faculty meetings, preparing for the kids, I have felt love and I can’t even tell if it is coming from me or everyone else.
There are so many ways to love! Psychologists have even mapped love onto the color wheel. I hope more people will find ways to express love at The Grauer School, even if some people are understandably a bit afraid of it. And if that’s you, here is a bit of courage for you, play it loud for yourself and for every teacher you know: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IYzlVDlE72w
At Grauer, we have our six universal core values, but what value is more universal than love. It makes all the others possible. And we talk about Green Grauer conservation, but what could ever be a more renewable resource than love:
The more love you give, the more you have.
Thank you for being one of our readers! Just for you, here is a bonus, a pure genius song by Dolly Parton: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qHcFbcMaXv8. Play it loud and feel it.
Happy Valentine’s Day! At our annual Tolerance Day event, an eighth grader reminded us, "The way you treat yourself is the way you treat others." So don’t forget to love yourself.
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