© 2017 Teaching Troubled Hearts, Chaddock Quincy, IL

  • Michelle Bickhaus

Seasons of Love


“Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes.”

The school year goes, in turns, at the speed of light, and at the pace of a garden snail. I think the sensation is true for students and parents, as well as for teachers. We, in fits and starts, wish time would speed up, and that time would slow down. It’s the conundrum of humanity.

If you’re at all contemplative, then you find yourself assessing your day, your week, your month, and finally, your year.

But how do we really measure a year?

Do we appraise our efficacy as a teacher based on the students’ standardized test scores? Do we estimate our prowess by considering our informal observations of student growth? Do we fix our worth as a teacher based on supervisors’ evaluations? Do we reflect on parents’ words?

How do we objectively establish a measurement of our year? In addition to the classroom, do we also consider our interactions at home? Do we weigh our engagement with community initiatives as well as other activities and hobbies?

“Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes. How do you measure, measure a year?”

When you work in a setting such as mine, you can most often feel like a failure if you measure your success, as a teacher, by student behaviors and their academic achievement. Our school is the end of the line for educational settings, outside of the penal system, or a locked facility of some sort.

We work with students who’ve experienced unbelievable trauma - really, things the most creative mind could not conceive have happened to our children. Because of this trauma, their brain development has been altered, and they simply do not function as they would, had they been born into more wholesome or trouble-free circumstances.

The events our students have encountered have brought them through the long road of torment, and we at Chaddock have provided the softest landing pad. While our students don’t realize their good fortune at arriving here, they do eventually gain some perspective, and come to understand the good fortune they’ve had to work with, not just experts in trauma-informed care, but with professionals who have really loved them back to health and stability.

“How about love? Measure in love. Seasons of love.”

It really is love that gets our students on a positive trajectory. I cannot claim that it was the meditation. It wasn’t the mindfulness activities. It wasn’t amazing lesson plans. It wasn’t the music. It wasn’t the essential oils. It wasn’t the poetry.

It was love. It was the collective effort of a group of educated and dedicated professionals, committed to loving kids to wholeness.

So often we avoid the word love when we are in the professional realm. It somehow seems unprofessional to talk about love. But what are we if we aren’t love? Sure, we’re kindness. We’re devotion. We’re grace. We’re mercy.

Love doesn’t have to exclude the fact that we’re professional. We’re disciplined. We’re reliable, ethical, organized, courteous, efficient, competent, communicative, certified, compliant, knowledgeable, etc. We’re everything a professional should be but that kind of dedication is born of love.

“How do you measure the life of a woman or a man?”

I remember that somebody said to me after the Parkland shooting, “That’s the kind of thing that would happen where you teach.”

Whoooa. THAT was a swift punch in the feelings. But I’d already given that a lot of thought, and had long ago reached the conclusion that such a thing, while it could happen anywhere, and at our school as easily as any other, probably wouldn’t because what we do SO WELL at Chaddock is love our kids.

I mean it. We are relentless in the pursuit of relationships with our students. Even when those kids push us away, and push away hard. We do not give up. We know that it’s the kids who push away the hardest who need us; they need our love the most.

So, when the days are too long.

When the paycheck is too small.

When the nights are too short.

When the progress is not visible.

When the hard stuff gets harder.

When the case histories are unfathomable.

When the wounding seems too great.

When it all seems too much.

Your love makes all the difference, even when it doesn’t seem so. That child needs you and your love.

“Remember the love. Remember the love. Remember the love. Measure in love. Measure, measure your life in love.”

(Seasons of Love - Jonathan D. Larson)


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