At a recent Real Love seminar, I had an opportunity to speak with a couple of teachers. Although I had heard stories like theirs many times before, it was still horrifying to hear them tell me that during all their education to become teachers— and during all their years of continuing education since certification—no one had ever talked about the primal need that every child has to feel loved. This would be somewhat like a farmer going all the way through agriculture school without hearing any mention of soil or water.
Teachers are certainly taught the content they are expected to pass on to their students. They’re also instructed in the various techniques with which they can pour that content into the heads of those students. But then no one teaches the teachers about the essential emotional and spiritual needs of their students that must be filled before the students can really listen and most effectively learn anything.
Regrettably, with each passing year, there seems to be little interest in correcting this gaping hole—this Grand Canyon, really—in our children’s education. To our credit, we are recognizing that something is amiss. We are trying to do something. We have recognized that our children are failing to get something from their education, and in 2001 the federal government passed the No Child Left Behind Act, which aimed to improve the performance of U.S. primary and secondary schools, primarily by increasing the standards of accountability. Simply put, this law required educators to put a greater focus on the outcome of education, where students would be required to conform to minimum standards of competency as assessed by certain basic skills tests.
Many opponents of this system object that students aren’t being given a genuine education but instead are learning only to pass tests. Whatever the objections to the No Child Left Behind approach to education, it is a fact that our students are continuing to fall behind the level of education of children of other nations around the world. In other words, what we’re doing with our children isn’t working.
I submit that training our children to pass tests without addressing their most basic need for Real Love is like putting buckets all over the house to catch the dripping water from a leaking roof. You might catch most of the water, but you’re not addressing the primary problem. Why not fix the hole in the roof? What children need most is to feel unconditionally loved, and if we address that need first, everything else we do with them will become much easier and more effective. In fact, many other problems will solve themselves.
Children who do not have that basic need filled, on the other hand, are consumed by emptiness and fear. They are so distracted by those feelings that effective learning becomes impossible. They also lash out with anger and rebellion. They attempt to fill their emptiness with the approval of their friends in all manner of bizarre behaviors, the very behaviors that drive adults crazy. They also engage in behaviors that are frankly dangerous, including the use of alcohol, drugs, and sex. In short, if we don’t fill the basic needs of our children for love, not only will they fail to learn, they will endanger their lives.
We can correct our shortcomings as teachers. We can do better. We can learn to love them and give them what many of us never received ourselves at their age. If we will commit to do this, we can literally change the course of the world.