My school had the great fortune of having Fr. Greg Boyle, SJ, of Homeboy Industries as the commencement speaker for this year’s graduation ceremony. Most of his address to the graduates issued a challenge to see the world in terms of a call to kinship.
But he also told a story of Cesar Chavez, who was asked by a reporter, “These farm workers, they really love you, don’t they?”
According to Boyle’s story, Chavez responded, “the feeling is mutual.”
That was the single most important part of his address for me personally. Not three days before, I was sitting in an office with three co-workers when a student walked in to give me a goodbye hug (for the summer). When the student left, one of my fellow teachers said to me, “Your students just really love you. It’s just so apparent to everyone.”
There were nods all around the room, and I became flustered. I never know what to say to something like that. It has occurred at each of the schools I’ve worked in. I don’t really know why. I am by far not the “coolest” teacher. The pacing and assignments in my class are what I will admit–not to my students, of course–a little nuts. Yet, it happens again and again. Sometimes it’s met with resentment from the adults around me. Sometimes it’s met with actual admiration (although, I still think underserved). But all of the time, I never know what to say.