First Words

Love’s knowledge

We learn the most from those with whom we have a strong emotional bond.

Seven-year-old Amos loves his public school teacher. His mother told me recently that when he was practicing writing skills at home one night, he kept saying “finger space” every time he needed to use his index finger to measure distance between the words “I love you, Ms. Ross.” For her birthday, he bought her assorted school supplies. Walking to school one day he picked dandelions to present her with a bouquet.

Amos’s emotional bond with Ms. Ross brings to mind my own favorite elementary school teacher. Mrs. Rainier was outstanding. I still can’t determine if she was a cut above every other teacher I had through my years or if my crush on her distorted all objectivity. But I loved her, and I learned so much during that third-grade year. When my parents invited our teachers to our home for dinner every spring, we kids would hide out on the second-floor landing and poke our heads through the stair rail balusters, hoping to hear whatever we could of the adult conversation below. I think I wanted to know if Mrs. Rainier loved me as much as I loved her.

Most of our understanding of knowledge involves the intellect. Early in my ministry, when I thought teaching was primarily about delivering information and transmitting wisdom, I must’ve resembled many other new clergy. Developing an emotional bond with others in a classroom or sanctuary didn’t carry for me the importance or significance of downloading information from my head and exporting it to others. I assigned little emotional value to the art of teaching or the science of learning.