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How to Show Real Love to our Students (Even When They’re Not Acting Lovable)

Show Real Love

Love is powerful.

In our homes, in our classroom, love is what makes the biggest impact, what changes hearts and minds. We’ve seen its power. We know what it’s capable of.

Yet sometimes it’s hard to demonstrate true, genuine love. Especially when a particular student’s not acting very lovable.

But since love is such a powerful force, maybe that’s more what we should focus on when things are going wrong – when Bradley’s temper is out of control or when Nicole seems to be ignoring everything we say.

I Cor. 13:13 states, “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” We know how important faith is and how much we desperately need hope. But love – that is the greatest of all.

Love is not a feeling. Love is a choice. And on the days when love is hardest, we must choose to show love. But how? There’s so much we could say, but the best description of true love is found in I Cor. 13. Let’s look at a few of love’s characteristics.

What True Love Looks Like

  1. Love is patient and kind. Oh, this is easy to say but so hard to actually live out. When my little one has made mess #2,452 of the day, I’m not always very patient. And how many times have we reacted to the question “What are we supposed to do again?” with something less than patience and kindness? We know we love our kids, but are we showing it to them by being patient and kind? Talk about a challenge!

  2. Love does not seek its own. As teachers, we know what it means to put others first. Our lives are given to serving the kids and doing what is best for them. But that doesn’t mean selfishness can’t slip in. When a student is arguing with me again, I’m not always 100% focused on his well-being. And when the grading starts to swallow my desk, I tend to get more task-focused than student-focused. But genuine love doesn’t seek out what’s best for me – it gives and gives and gives some more.

  3. Love is not easily provoked. Don’t our students know how to push all the right buttons? There’s definitely been some moments where I just wanted to scream at someone, and while I’ve never actually hurled chalk at a student, there have been times I’ve responded with less than complete control. But true, genuine love is not easily provoked. It loves even in the most frustrating moments.

  4. Love thinks no evil. Do you have a student or two that just seem impossible? You know, the one that we secretly wish would just transfer to another school. However, these kids are often the ones that need our love the most, the ones who desperately need someone to believe in them. And if you’ve been teaching very long, you’ve probably seen that these are the kids that can sometimes turn out to be our biggest blessings! (I share my favorite transformation story in my post What to Do with the Student Who’s Driving You Crazy.)

  5. Love does not rejoice in iniquity but rejoices in the truth. Our society is constantly telling us that it’s mean or even hateful to tell someone that what they’re doing is a bad idea. But if you truly love someone, you won’t allow them to continue down a destructive path. Genuine love speaks the truth, humbly pointing out wrong and showing the right way. Correcting and guiding our kids and students is a powerful outpouring of love, as long as it’s just that – done in love.

  6. Love never fails. On the days when everything is going wrong and Wesley’s snide comment feels like the last straw, love doesn’t fail. When report cards are due in three hours and you have to sort out an interpersonal mess, love doesn’t fail. It endures all things. It bears all things. Love always loves.

How Can We Love Like This?

So if you’re like me, right now you’re thinking that there’s just one word to describe this type of love – impossible. And you’re right.

This type of genuine love is impossible because it’s not a human love. It’s a Divine love. It’s God’s love.

Love is listed as the first fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). That means that it’s the result of the Spirit’s work in our lives. Just as the fruit of an apple tree is produced by the apple tree, the fruit of the Spirit is produced by the Spirit. The only way we can ever love like this is if He is loving through us.

If you don’t have a personal relationship with God, You’re missing out on the greatest source of love, strength, and power. Click here to find out more about God’s love and how You can know Him personally. Or, listen to discover what it means to trust in Christ at truthforlife.org.

For those of us who do know Christ, the answer’s simple, though not necessarily easy. We need more of the Spirit in our lives. That means we need to read His Word, memorize it, and think about it. We need to deepen our relationship with God through prayer and worship. And we need to yield our lives to the Spirit and allow Him to work through us.

It’s not an overnight change. It’s a daily – no, moment-by-moment – decision. Will we spend time with Him? Will we yield to Him in the toughest moments? Will we allow Him to change us one little step at a time?

Lord, please change me today.

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  • Whether you teach in an impoverished inner city school or in a suburb of prosperity and privilege, it is all the same. There are too many children weak in hope, in trust, and in spirit. There are too many children who dwell in hated, fear, and doubt. There are too many children who live in brokenness and despair. Prayerful teaching places an extra mantel of protection and love around the children entrusted to us and turns our classrooms into holy ground.
    Each week a Bible passage is cited along with a reflection on that passage. Always the reflection will have implications for teaching whether it be in a public, private, religious, or home school, whether it be pre-school, grade school, middle or high school, or at post-secondary or university level.

    Please visit prayerfulteaching.blogspot.com

  • You are incredible, this blog is incredible and you are clearly achieving Gods work with all you do. You will never know how much you are inspiring all your readers. I work in one of the toughest schools in New Zealand and while I am patient naturally and strive so hard to love my students like above I really let them get the best of me at the end of last year and totally lost the plot at a class. I had to go home I was so distraught and disappointed at myself. I swear I have almost read your entire blog in the last few days since discovering it and a week out from the beginning of a new s hook year I have restored hope that I can be who God is calling me to be in my school. Thank you!!!!

  • Thanks so much for this article. It is such a good thing for me to hear today. Everyone is getting the last few week jitters, and boy oh boy, do we ever need for love to predominate. I also believe that if the teacher has the right attitude, her example will be echoed… To a sense of course, but really…”Ain’t mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy”… Same rule applies at school- teacher aint happy nobody’s happy. Blessings and thanks for your encouragement.

  • Love needed in this family’s life situation! A student just shared about a friend of hers who got pregnant at 14. When her parents found out, they locked her in her room and made her read her Bible as punishment. The young girl’s parents were very strict and sheltered their daughter. She got pregnant at a Junior High Dance. She has very limited parenting skills and puts her baby to sleep by strapping her in a car seat each night!!!! Her father just lost his job & they are impoverished. The girl’s mother was also pregnant at the same time she was, so she is also caring for her baby and is not able to help her daughter much. Please pray for this desperate situation. They live 40 miles away and are active in a rural church. I would call Child Protective Services if the student was in my area or school but I have no names or contact info.

  • Exactly what I needed today. I had a little first grader who was pushing all my buttons and telling me he did not care. I told him I did care and sent them to PE. Then I prayed. Slowly he turned around and was able to settle down to work. Then came the tears and hugs and telling me how much he loved me. With God and our trust in Him we will survive all the challenges our calling as educators of his little ones throw at us.

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