Why I teach Students, not English or Anything Else

I was recently at a conference and was asked a really important question:


Do you care about students, or do you care for students?


I’ll admit my mouth dropped open a little as I soaked in that thought. Don’t let any one ever tell you words are not important, because that one preposition shift changes everything.

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Humans are everywhere, but they don’t always live with a purpose. In fact, I’d argue that a large majority of people are lost. Spoon-fed on social media and misinformation and wandering the planet without focus or direction. They’re working for a dollar sign or in the case of students, grades. Both arbitrary uses of symbols that represent far less than what we should be working toward as a human race.

They don’t know why it matters.

Too often, they don’t even care.

It is up to those of us who DO have purpose and direction to TEACH these humans how to learn. Not just give them information, but actually TEACH them how to invest their time, energy and passion into something they TRULY care about.

But teaching people to care is about as fruitful as bathing suit shopping in January and as obnoxious as Christmas decorations in October. It isn’t something that will ever have meaning for people unless you first learn yourself how to care FOR those under your charge. And the burden shouldn’t fall on parents, teachers, preachers, and youth leaders alone.

I care about a lot of things:

  • Global warming
  • Politics
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Activities
  • Music
  • Health

I can care about a lot of these things, but I don’t care for them. I don’t nurture them. I don’t invest in them to the point that I am overwhelmed with emotion, needing to fix every little thing that’s wrong with them. I read a book. I cry, scream, or shout for joy–but then I put the book on the shelf and move on. I can care about them all day long, but until I actually invest my energy into them, I will never care FOR them.


Humans are the same. I can care about them, but until I invest something in them–a part of myself–I will never care for them.


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And they will never see the relevance in anything I say.

Especially kids–or young adults. They can smell irrelevance and in-authenticity from miles and miles away.

I teach maybe one or two kids who actually care about English as something that will impact their future. Maybe. On a good day. “I hate English,” one student tells me daily. Fair enough. I hate math. Not everyone will love the same things because no one is the same. And that’s OK–great even!

“I hate English,” he says, but then adds, “But I like you so I do it anyway.”

Wow. I’m not tooting my own horn or even trying to say I’m the greatest teacher. Hell, if I were trying to be a popular teacher the kid probably wouldn’t ‘hate English’. What I am saying is that even though this kid doesn’t like the subject matter, he knows that I care–not just about him, but for him. So during lunch, he slinks into my room, and we chat. Sometimes about school work, but more often about life.

Yet he hates English.

Knowing that someone cares for you is more motivating than any assignment I could ever give them.


Kids need adults who care for them. Not adults who listen for a moment, pat them on the head, then put them on the shelf and move on. They need adults to teach and mentor them them. They need authentic guidance.


The movement to hide kids away and shush them as though they were distractions like cell phones is damaging our society and silencing the voices that aren’t just the future, but the here and now. And ANYTIME you SILENCE someone’s voice, they’ll find it someplace else.

In drugs.

In alcohol,

In sex.

In violence.

We complain about what is wrong with society. We blame it on the media. We blame it on movies and TV shows. We spend so much time blaming the problems in our society on whatever scapegoat is most easily accessible at the time, we never stop to realize that individually we are ALL a part of the problem If we want to see real change in our society, a change in the future…If we want to make the world great, the answer will never be found in the government. It will be when, as a society, we learn to care FOR–not just about–each other and more importantly OUR STUDENTS, OUR KIDS, OUR NEXT GENERATION.

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