I have students from the past that now stretch out over the thirty years. Apart from making me feel old, it also amazes me how many of them still remember our time together and state there is some connection still there, no matter how long it has been. I know I am not alone in this phenomena. It has been cussed and discussed over the life of Western civilization. The learning act produces a lasting bond. So what is it that produces this bond? I give just a few guesses to start this meditation…
Ego. It could be as simple as the pride or sense of accomplishment that the teacher and learner share. The teacher remembers that the student passed or at least tried to, and the student is happy that they made it through. Some of the comments I see on Facebook from time to time intimate that what is remembered of my teaching and their experience is the difficulty of the experience. But I think it goes beyond this, as the other more difficult aspects of life would slowly wear away at this – unless I am the toughest thing they ever faced!
Commonality. There is the possibility that we are both drawn together by a common goal or purpose. Just being in the same class or school can build a bond of identity. The fact that we know each other is a form of this bond, but it seems to go well beyond simple acquaintance.
Sweat affinity. Two who have worked together often have a bond of sweat. Take to boys that don’t know each other and have them dig a hole together and forever after the one considers the other “the guy I dug that whole with.” I think this is in play here, but in situations of education I think it is more than just the hard work.
Love. For many of my past students, we were together long enough to begin to love one another. This is helped by the prayer I have prayed since before I even began teaching that God would cause me to love all my students regardless of their lovability. When I say we were together long enough, I am not saying that simple passage of time is enough. But the time allowed for the words and commitments to pass between us that are necessary for two people to love each other around ideas and actions. Time allows for sins and forgiveness, mistakes and corrections, victory and celebration. And much of that is outside the parameters of the final “assessment” – “I got an A in Elliott’s class.” Some of the students who seem the most bonded with me were the ones who struggled the most but received additional time, attention, and instruction from me as a result. This is a deep bond, but I venture one step further.
Delight or even Joy. I think most of the bond that is present in the relationship of learning is that of joy. At least delight. A good teacher and student will enjoy thinking together, and this will bond them in a way that is beyond even the bond of love, in fact I think it spells out the love or desire or impulse that was at the heart of the last paragraph. A love of true, good, and beautiful things is a very strong thing. It can pull two disparate people deeply into affection, and become the kind of memory that immediately warms the heart and results in nice expressions on Facebook, or much deeper things than that. The problem with Joy in this life, as Lewis so well expressed, is that it is fleeting. It cannot be held on to for any length of time in a fallen world. But its memory is something we seek to return to as often as we can, so when it is experienced at all in the classroom, the heart hangs on to it, and to those it was shared with.
Just the thoughts running through my head. Your comments might bond us together…