I took my practicum class to a talk on feminist pedagogy yesterday. One of the students had coordinated the talk and we all went to support her and because it seemed very relevant to the work we were doing in the class.
At one point a teacher sitting next to me started talking about how she loved her students. She loved each and everyone of them and was always sad to see the semester end and her students leave. While she was talking I was thinking--No. I don't LOVE my students. I can develop great fondness for some of them, over time love one or two, and quite frankly there are some I don't like. Love, for me, is a strong word and I don't usually attribute it to anything but the deepest of relationships. However I do RESPECT my students (even the ones I don't like) and that seems more important to feminist pedagogy (or any type of successful pedagogy) than love. I see my students as I see my colleagues--as people and people can be fragile.
Even the toughest of us can break.
Sometimes we don't see the fragility of our students (I'm not talking about neuroses here but rather about the ability to place trust in both the system of academia and the environment of the classroom) but when it shows it can explain volumes. Recognizing fragility and supporting the risk it takes to show it is what establishes that trust.
So as I'm sitting there thinking I'm a big blue meanie who doesn't love her students, one of my students raises her hand in response to this woman's comment. She said that she has been in public school for her entire life and is now in her last semester of college. She said she really wasn't used to teachers caring for or about her. She wasn't feeling the love. She then described how I had sent her an email early in the semester after she missed a class. She was surprised to get the email and said she had not experienced having a professor show concern about her as a person.
Later on in the discussion the student who had coordinated the talk mentioned that three of her professors were present. She got a little teary as she described how much that support meant to her.
They are fragile and strong, my students, and I'm proud of them for standing up and taking the risk of higher education.