Give Them Air!
Is there anything in life more essential than air? While it’s true that you can only live for so long without food and water, the human body can only survive a mere 3 minutes without air. And much like air is to the human body, so is love to the human spirit. They say it makes the world go ‘round! I would even argue that love is the very “air” that we breathe.
In many ways, a person’s behavior is a direct reflection of the level of love that’s been shown to them over the course of their lifetime. Our ability to treat others decently often mimics the amount of love that we’ve felt. Those who haven’t been shown true, unconditional love and affection cannot be expected to always function or react in appropriate ways. On the other hand, people who feel they have been genuinely loved and cared for can receive that love and reflect it back toward others. They are generally well adjusted, secure, and confident. It’s with this knowledge that we can begin to grasp the sobering reality of the loveless generation that roams the halls of our schools today.
It’s been my experience that, more often than not, students who tend to react aggressively toward their teachers and peers have often felt that love (I’m talking about a deep sense of care and concern) was withheld from them, usually from the adults in their lives. Research suggests that a lack of love inhibits the nervous system from relaxing and functioning well. Without the nervous system at rest, it’s difficult for a child to fully grow and mature. It’s hard to be well adjusted or confident. This is often coupled with deep feelings of insecurity and a sense of “not being good enough.” In their minds, they simply don’t measure up. Every interaction with those around them is rooted from this false perspective. The destructive mindset that one must “get them before they get you” seems rampant in those that are insecure in love. These students are trying to pull you down, as well as every other person in the room. As they say, misery loves company and this may be the only way they know how to compete on an even playing field (“I feel bad, so I want you to feel bad, too”).
Yes, it is incredibly overwhelming at times to meet the standards set for us as educators when we’re being cussed at or put down by our students, blamed by parents for missing homework and failed grades, and pressured by administration to meet annual yearly progress requirements. But, when under-loved students step into our classrooms, we must notice them. We must take an interest in our kids as individuals. We can no longer sit back and ignore the reality that our students must “breathe in” and receive from their teachers the one thing they are missing the most – unconditional love.
As teachers and administrators, how can we reach this loveless generation? What would our schools look like if we spent more time focusing on this universal truth – our students need air?! It’s time that we put our own issues aside and begin the work to fill the void that is far too prevalent in the American classroom. Love is more than feelings and emotions. Love is action. Love is behavior. Love is giving and selfless. Love is committing and enduring (whether it’s offered in return or not). Real love must be shown, perceived and felt by our students before we can expect any actual change to occur. Show your students that you see them. Let’s breathe air back into this generation again, starting in the classroom.
I’m Chris Morris, founder of The Morrissey Model. We offer a practical structure and format for teachers to recognize and take interest in the lives of today’s students. Our tools are a bridge by which you can demonstrate and show love to the individuals who need it most - students.