Don’t you love it when you read a book that is a total game changer? The way you look at a certain issue or topic is changed, or opened up as a result of reading that book. For me, Dr. Gary Chapman’s books about The 5 Love Languages changed the way I think about relationships. I remember feeling frustrated, sometimes lonely and like my needs weren’t always being met. This could be in marriage, in the workplace, in parenting or in teacher-student relationships. Such a gift to understand that maybe the person I was in relationship with just wasn’t speakin’ my language!
In a nutshell (but it is so worthwhile to read about this and explore it fully) Dr. Chapman applies his experience as a marriage counsellor to discuss how people give love and receive love in different ways; we all speak a different love language. He names these languages as words of affirmation, quality time, acts of service, receiving gifts and physical touch. We feel most loved, appreciated and connected when the people with whom we are in relationships, interact with us on the ‘right frequency’.
For those of us who are teachers, either in the classroom or studio, to our kids, as workshop leaders or seminar leaders at work, Champman’s book Discovering the 5 Love Languages at School is an amazing resource. Although the target audience is classroom teachers of grades 1 to 6 students, the book is full of lesson plans, ideas and activities that are easily adaptable to any teacher-student group. The overall idea is that if a teacher understands how to build connections with his or her students, then authentic relationships are formed, trust is established and a safer, more productive learning environment is created. Here are some examples (Chapman, 174-175).
1) For students who feel loved and valued by hearing words of affirmation, the teacher can: give a specific verbal complement; write a note home expressing praise; and always use students’ names when greeting them or calling on them for answers.
2) For students who feel loved and valued through spending quality time, the teacher can: be a good listener; spend recess or lunch with students; or ask students to share a story about a life experience
3) For students who feel loved and valued through acts of service, the teacher can: help a student find a lost item; help a student understand a complicated problem by explaining in detail the procedure; and just generally find ways to help them.
4) For students who feel loved and valued when they receive gifts, the teacher can: create a reward system using stickers or prizes; ask students to tell about birthday or holiday gifts they received; or celebrate students’ birthdays with a little something.
5) For students who feel loved and valued through safe touch, teachers can: greet students with a handshake at the door; give high fives or fist pumps; pat students on the back or on the shoulder; or even look into the students’ eyes with warm, soft eyes in return.
I know that my teaching style naturally defaults to my preferred love language – I am good at spending time with students and listening. But, I also know that I can reach more students, and develop more authentic relationships by purposefully engaging using the other love languages as entry points. It’s hard for me to give gifts, but if I don’t ever do this, then some students many not feel as valued and connected. And because touch is such a sticky topic for teachers these days, classrooms often feel cold, sterile and uninviting for our hug-a-bug students. Just as we have entry points for academic learning and curriculum goals, Dr. Chapman gives us entry points for emotional well-being, safety and connection. Here is the link to this book. You can also do free quizzes online to see what your love language is, and explore some of Champman’s other work. http://www.5lovelanguages.com/resource/curriculum/.