All you need is love

Finally, we know what separates great teachers from their more-middling peers: "unconditional love." So writes educator Mark Ryan in an op-ed for The Arizona Republic, a respected newspaper that doesn't usually print pieces about love, joy, sunshine, and kittens. But this is a time of hope, we're told, and Ryan's article fits the bill. Unconditional love, he notes, means that a teacher "never gives up and gives in, even to students whose academic development is slow and social growth stunted." Such educators are "as demanding of a student's persistence in meeting high standards as the teacher is of himself or herself." These are all certainly good qualities, but indications of "unconditional love" they are not. Holding all students to high standards and never giving up on classroom stragglers are, in fact, part of a teacher's core job description and shouldn't be portrayed as rare actions based on individual, wispy feelings. Ryan is right to believe that an educator's persistence in the classroom leads to student success, but he is wrong to couch such determination in the language of love. Talking about high expectations, standards, and accountability may not be romantic, but it has the virtue of being accessible, precise, true, and replicable.

"Great educators have attitude of unconditional love," by Mark Ryan, The Arizona Republic, April 24, 2008

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