The greatest of these

The greatest intellectual challenge I’ve been facing in the last year is how to do my job with more love. This is most explicitly the influence of Louis Schmier, but I think there’s a lot in the Open Courses/co-learning community which addresses genuine connection and shared growth without using the word “love”.

Instructional technology doesn’t actually require a lot of love. You can do good service without it. I’m beginning to doubt, though, that you can do great service without it.

Once you get past the “which button do I click” level of training, the questions have very high stakes. What do you want?  What would be good for you? What could elevate or change your thinking? What do you want for your students? What do they want for themselves? What do we value, and why? In change, what do we fear, and why?

How can we enter this project as individuals and leave it as some kind of community?

You can answer these questions effectively, and efficiently, without love. It can just be business. I’m just not convinced it’s the best I can do.

2 thoughts on “The greatest of these”

  1. It is usually so not cool to talk about love in terms of teaching, but I love that you do here. (Michael Wesch does in one of his videos, but I’m sorry I can’t remember which one.) I think that the great difficulty about teaching with more love is how vulnerable it makes you. Once you are that vulnerable, you can no longer be the only teacher in the room.

    Once, when I was doing some coaching with a school district superintendent, I heard a comment about the tone his leadership style seemed to provoke in the district: The fish stinks from the head. I’ve come to believe that a true class learning community has a better chance of coming fully to life when love– or at least the attempt– comes from the head.

    1. Thanks, Karen. If this appeals to you, I really encourage you to check out the work of Louis Schmier, linked above.

      I acknowledge that one of the great risks of talking about love is that it verges on woo-woo territory… “I can’t possibly assess learning or think of my courses as part of an institutional commitment, because I have ineffable love for my students.” That risk is part of why it’s not cool to talk about love in a data-driven, standards-compliant environment. But we need to see this as a dysfunctional expression of love – as the classroom equivalent of the snowplow parent. It is possible to love people and still hold them to high (and fair and even individualized) standards.

      Of course, another reason we don’t talk about it is that vulnerability can be aggressive. By this I don’t just mean in a sexually harassing way, but also that, in offering vulnerability, you are asking another person to hold that vulnerability for you. It’s a lot of power, and not every person will be ready to accept it. It’s a power which can be manipulated. Again, though, we need a conversation which addresses when that love is presenting ourselves at our best, and when it’s not.

      Yes, the tone comes from the head. The unconditional positive regard which Howard and Jim and Alan have shown me these past 2 weeks, on Twitter and in blog comments and indirectly on Blog Talk, has a lot to do with my willingness to say this to you now.

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