Feb 102008
 
Authors: Anne Marie Merline

As Valentines Day is right around the corner, love is in the air on the CSU campus, and especially in the classroom.

But what does “love” have to do with teaching? Everything.

Recall that the first recorded thoughts about teaching begin with Socrates — ////who sought the truth through philosophy.

Philosophy is the love of wisdom. We are all here to find the “truth” for one reason or another. But the truth cannot be ascertained without human connections. When humans connect in the light of passionate dialogue, love, intellectual and human, blooms.

I think about our patterns of human existence. It is in the classroom that I spend the most time with other people in my life — besides the time with my son — and this is where love between people seems natural.

Love in the classroom? A thought more scandalous than some Collegian editorials.

This being said, the University has a strict policy against “relationships” between students and instructors and faculty/staff and their supervisors.

I am assuming that, as I was friendly with the geology faculty where I was an undergraduate student, a friendship between two adults is not the rub. It is issues of intimacy between those entities that makes campus interactions “awkward” as they say.

I am someone who has spent the past three years thinking about love almost 24-7, through a divorce, an emotionally intimate relationship and now in love with a new boyfriend, I had to, and still have to, wonder what love is.

Different kinds of love can be partially explained as different combinations of intimacy, passion, and commitment.

For some, the university experience is one of passion and commitment to ideals and practices.

Higher education is a place where it is easy to become enamored with liked-minded people and those who understand the passion for learning, the advancement of ideals, and the commitment to social justice. We usually fall in love with people who have similar passions and commitments.

If RamTalk is any indication of what is going through the thoughts of the students here at CSU, there is a widespread quest for intimacy.

Humans are social beings. We crave personal connections //////– we need love in our lives to reach those higher stages of personal growth.

“Love and Belonging” is the third stage in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs only after physiological needs and safety. If you believe what Maslow has to offer, without love of family, friends, and intimacy, personal growth is not achieved as an adult.

I am almost afraid to admit, in this most public arena, that I indeed grow to love some of my students. In my more than ten years of teaching, some of my former students are some of my closest friends.

There are plenty of former students who come to my home to help me decorate my Christmas Tree, celebrate birthday parties with my family, share conversations over a cup of tea, or give me a quick hug while walking across campus.

There are some students still on campus that I would do just about anything for, because I have grown to love them over the years.

I also do a lot to promote amore in class. Take this past week for instance.

In the seminar that I teach about human rights, I brought in my friend Scott so that my students could feel the human connection with someone that the students had never met before. You see, my friend Scott is now six weeks old. There is no purer form of love than that between an adult and an infant.

Scott was passed among all 20 students. I asked them why we value infants and children, but we are more then willing to treat them with indifference, or worse, when then become adults.

In another class, in which we are discussing consumerism, the environment, and the issue of quality of life, we took some time out of class to make homemade Valentines for loved ones after the content of the class was covered.

Learning, fun, and love all in a 75-minute class. Does learning get any better?

Love happens, no matter the way that human connections begin. Opening one’s heart and performing love is much easier than the other end of the spectrum.

Hate, one minister preached to me twenty years ago, takes a lot of energy. He was right about that.

It is the love of friends and students that sustain my community, and drive me to smile and give me cause to get out of bed every morning. Give love on campus a try.

Anne Marie Merline is an instructor for the University Honors Program. Her column appears biweekly in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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