All You Need Is…

Today is Valentine’s Day Eve, if you will, and I am preparing myself for delighting in many more homemade heart-shaped cookies.. They started arriving last week and there were some in the staff lounge today, and I imagine there will be more tomorrow to share. As a married lady, I am happy to say that this is not a big “holiday” for us, because we’d have far bigger issues if we didn’t express how much we love each other more than annually. (And if you happen to be someone who is currently measuring the health of your relationship by what happens tomorrow, then I am worried for you.) I will be giving Husband a Valentine card, of course, because my preferred form of love-giving in the form of a present is through writing.

But back to Valentine’s Day Eve. Today I spent my afternoon in two different classes, where both of the teachers at different times had told me that their classes are needing a renewal of community. One teacher said recently that her students requested more “bonding time,” and the other teacher said that her kiddos are getting to a point where they get visibly disappointed if they don’t end up pairing with one of their so-called “best friends” in the class.

In both classes we warmed up with some improv exercises and some sharing in partners, but in the end I got the most traction with talking about the Golden Rule. I will forever remember my mom saying things like, “You know, I may not go to church, but I follow the Golden Rule.” (She is what I heard a priest call a Chreaster — a regular major religious holiday-going Catholic.) I asked the kiddos if they had heard of it — they had, thankfully — and we wrote out a few forms of it on the board. “Treat others the way you want to be treated.” “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” “Love your neighbor as yourself.” I explained that every major world religion has a form of this rule at the heart of their teaching, and then I asked the questions: Does this rule say you have to be best friends with everybody? Does this rule say that you have to like every single person you meet every single second of the day? What does it mean?

They cut to the chase right away: Be kind to others if you want them to be kind to you. Don’t be surprised if people are mean to you if you say mean things. Ah, yes. All we need is a little more community love, right? They each wrote the one thing they will try to do to be a better community member on a Post-it note before I left, saying things like “I will not laugh when ____ talks” and “I will try to work hard with my partner even when I wish my partner was someone else.” Gotta love kids for being honest. And I hope that today gave them some food for thought. It’s not easy to follow the Golden Rule, especially with people who work so hard at being Negative Nellies and Debbie Downers and take it out on other people. Or, in the land of middle school, it’s hard to follow the Golden Rule when the novelty of cliques is starting to become a reality in the classroom. So I’m hoping that they’re going to work on it, though I know they won’t fix it in a day. But on this Valentine’s Day Eve, I thought it was more than appropriate to focus on a different kind of love than the kind that we associate with a heart-shaped box of chocolates and teddy bears. I was reminded too that I am not exempt from this rule, either. Working in a community isn’t the same as having a strong feeling of community, and we can all certainly afford to plug into that feeling of connectedness with each other.

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