Tuesday, June 22, 2010

On Deciding to Love 350 Strangers At Once

I loved them before I got here. I planned it. I decide that no matter what, I was going to love each and every one of my students. My homeroom is only twelve so that’s easy. Then there are all the students I teach who aren’t in my homeroom, that’s another 62. Then they all have brothers, sisters, cousin-brothers and cousin-sisters (Bhutanese consider close cousins siblings). Then there are the kids who stop me in the hall to give me a kiss and ones who deliver love letters to me even though I don’t know and never did know their names. Once it’s all added up, siblings, close relatives, distant relatives in remote villages, etc, I figure I am committed to loving all kids in Bhutan, not just the ones in my homeroom, my classes, or even all of ELC.

In theory, this is easy. What teacher doesn’t love kids? Once a woman who came to talk to us future teachers in Santa Barbara warned about future job interviews, “When they ask you why you went into teaching, don’t say, ‘Because I just love kids,’ that really creeps me out.” Fair enough. I am learning that you can love kids and still experience more than mild irritation at them several times throughout a day. Especially when they draw with crayon on the walls, (that was the sixth graders), or when they are hiding feral cats in their ghos (Cara and I ended up adopting it), or when they interrupt a lesson on question tags to sing “I’ll be There” by Jackson Five or when they are caught peeing in the upstairs bathroom bathtub and cursing at you in Dzongkha.

I think you all knew where this entry was going before it started: even at their most irritating and infuriating, I cannot help but want to bring them home with me.  Although maybe just for lunch or a a quick snack. When they sing Justin Beiber in unison replacing, “Baby” with “Ma’am” I get chills of happiness. When they misunderstand an assignment to write a three stanza poem of five lines each, and turn in a fifteen stanza poem of five lines each in a homeric tribute to their parents I want to hug them. One day I let them free write on any topic they want and then ask who would like to share. The consequence of the free write is that I now know the very complex and twighlight-esque love triangles of every fifth and sixth grade relationship in the entire school. For the rest of the day I bask in the memories of what it was live to be a tweenager in love. (That's a shout-out to you Danny Flannery.)

This teacher-student love is flowing both ways. On my birthday I was accosted at the gate and before even entering school grounds, I had an armful of homemade cards, gifts, giant teddy bears, and Buddha figurines. I was blindfolded by the Head Girl who led my to my classroom where my homeroom class threw a very successful twenty-fifth birthday party for me with live musical entertainment, homemade food, and non-alcoholic champagne. Things got a little wild when I granted their requests for MJ and the moonwalking and gyrating began.

I know they love me too when they find me on Facebook (despite the lengths I have gone to tighten my privacy settings).  I know they have checked up on me when the next day he/she wants a detailed account of every experience I have ever had up until now, beginning in my sophomore year of college when, “You and that blonde girl are eating bananas on a boat.” They have searched through every photo of me ever posted. This must be love.

At times, this is great for the ego but at the end of the day, they are teaching their teacher what real unconditional love feels like. I could be anyone. They don’t love me because I am me, even though it is an appealing thought. They just love so well. They love all of their teachers this much. We can scold them, give them a weekend full of homework, make them watch as their friends play basketball for some minor infraction and the next day it’s as if we are still the brilliant sun of their sky. I’m not saying I am going to be doing this forever. Screaming, “WALK IN THE HALLWAYS!!!!”, “What goes at the end of a sentence?” and ‘What part about, “Go pee in the toilet wasn’t clear?” gets old after the first three hundred and seventy five times, but for the moment I can’t think of a better way to spend my days. Deciding to love this many strangers has been a good decision.


  1. i love this. i love you. i love love.

  2. Kellie, you are so poetic.. My eyes mist up and I await you next blog post.
    I too, love you. Keep up the adventure, I'm not sure how you top this one.

    Your cell phone God Father,
    Uncle Bob-o

  3. "Deciding to love this many strangers has been a good decision."

    -That is a beautiful sentence, a beautiful sentiment.

  4. I loved reading this...I am about to go back to 16 bright eyed 2nd and 3rd graders on Monday and needed a swift kick in the pants to get back into it. I also needed a reminder that even though I do sound like a broken record, that they do love me too :-) I hope all is well.

  5. Hi Kellie! I want to go back to Bhutan. What lovely stories about the kids who will be kids no matter where you go. They are lucky to have you, "I can feel the love..."