Teaching and loving our students at a distance

Can we love more from a distance? Does the distance magnify our love?

I have thoroughly enjoyed Dave Chang’s show Ugly Delicious on Netflix. One of his recent episodes explored food through the eyes of an expecting parent (him). It made him consider the different tastes of children (very different than those of his customers), recognize the place of food in different cultures and at different points of life (from his mother making specific food for Dave’s pregnant wife that would help with the pregnancy to 3rd graders in a cafeteria), and reassess his work/life balance. At the end of the show, he said something verging on profound.

“It almost brings cooking back to why you cared about it to begin with. I’m here to put all of myself in this so you can get some nourishment and love from it.”

His exploration of food through the early days of fatherhood gave him a sense of purpose. Weirdly this brought me to my own wonders about the feelings I, we, teachers are having right now. The outpouring of collaboration and thoughtfulness that has resulted from the new requirements of distance learning is clearly connected to our purpose. When we started as educators, we were driven by these ideas of changing lives for children.  Surprising, or probably not so surprisingly, it takes our lives changing to help us remember that we are here to change lives.

Dave’s purpose for cooking (my paraphrase):

I’m going to cook this food with so much passion and love that you know how much I love you.

My purpose for educating:

I am going to teach this with so much passion and love that you know how much I love you.

The Michelin-star-rated chef who now leads a cafeteria comments on the joy in kids faces when they enjoy his food. Teachers get to experience that every day. And honestly, sometimes we miss those moments because we are caught up in the day-to-day. But when we do see them…no, feel them, it is life-giving.

In our current state of school, the opportunities to witness these life-giving moments will be few and far between. I have a feeling that is why so many teachers are so driven right now. If we can’t see the look in a child’s eyes when they breakthrough with learning, we are still going to teach with a passion, because that is how our kids know we love them. Notice, I didn’t write students, I wrote our kids, because that is what they are. From the moment they walk in the door to the moment they leave they are our kids. Our passionate teaching from a distance will help them remember that they belong to a special community of learners.)

I don’t think we can love more from a distance, and I’m not sure if it is magnified, but I do think we might love harder.
I don’t think we can teach more from a distance, and I’m confident it is not magnified, but I do think we might teach harder.

As the “Kids Menu” episode of Ugly Delicious highlights, success means balance. I can guarantee that some of us will need to step back and teach less hard so that our kids don’t get overwhelmed by our distance-teaching/loving. We may even overwhelm ourselves as we try to teach and love our school kids at the same time we try to teach and love our biological kids. We will learn our balance and we will keep on teaching and loving all of those kids with purpose.  Our parents will also get to experience the learning Ahas that teachers cherish deeply. And our community of learners may expand in ways we didn’t know were possible.

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