Notes from a teacher | All you need is love

February 8, 2014 

When I was in kindergarten, a little boy in my class brought me flowers for Valentine’s Day. Unfortunately, I was a bit shy back then and I refused them. A bit later that day, I was called into the principal’s office (the first of MANY visits) and was asked very nicely by the principal why I wouldn’t accept her son’s flowers. I immediately started crying hysterically (Oh my gosh, I still do that when I go the principal’s office — now I know why!) until she finally ushered me back to class.

I have since given and received many a Valentine’s Day gift. In fact, the truth of the matter is, I remember more Valentine’s Day gifts than I do birthday gifts.

I also vividly remember the first boy I ever loved. His name was Rob Jacobs. He was in my third-grade class, and just the cutest boy you’d ever seen. I loved him, I really did! There was only one problem — my sister, who was in my class, loved him too.

Kathy had long, brown hair that went to her waist and pretty blue eyes, and won our in-class “Simon Says” dance contest. (The 1910 Fruitgum Company song, remember?)

Unfortunately, the dance contest was held on the same day that I snuck to school wearing my mother’s garter belts and nylons that kept falling around my ankles. It was not a pretty sight, and needless to say, I had no chance with Rob Jacobs, or of making the Simon Says dance team.

My heart was broken on Valentine’s Day, and I didn’t have the principal to help me out.

In each chapter of your life, this particular day means many different things. When you are very young, it is about giving valentines to your classmates and how many valentines you receive in turn. It’s about decorating the Valentine’s Day bag, box or envelope. We’re immersed in glitter, glue, foil paper and doilies — the bigger and sparklier, the better!

The Valentine’s Day party in elementary school is the biggest and most-anticipated party of the year. It’s even bigger than Halloween, believe it or not. At this age, everyone receives a valentine — everyone!

If only that would continue into middle school and high school, far fewer people would be in therapy, I’m sure.

When we began our discussion about Valentine’s Day this year, most of the kids decided that Valentine’s Day was about buying stuff for people.

According to Stan, our resident “Little Professor,” if you really, really, really love someone, you buy that person a card AND some candy. Most of the kids agreed that you buy people cards on Valentine’s Day.

Our discussion then took many twists and turns, as by now you all know. We talked about love, candy, doll babies, Egypt (I don’t even know how that came up), slavery, puppies, Carissa’s sister Heather’s turtles and someone’s Transformer. There was a brief, somewhat hysterical discussion about the “love man,” who the kids told me was pink, had a shooty “fing” that made people love each other and wore a diaper.

After I regained some control over the discussion (which is never easy), I decided to poll some other classes about what love means.

I simply couldn’t hold the attention of these 6-year-old munchkins who wanted nothing to do with love, but desperately wanted to talk about Transformers.

With a shout-out to some teacher friends, here are the results: Love looks like pink letters and doilies; love looks like sweet things; love looks weird; love looks like a heart; love looks like my boyfriend, Brian; love looks like cupid. Love feels warm in your heart; love feels like my blanket; love feels like Cupid hit you; love feels like a hug; love feels like hot chocolate. Love smells like vanilla; love smells like chocolate; love smells like flowers; love smells like roses; and love smells like boys and gentlemen.

Now that I am 50-something, I often look back and think about love, and the many times love has come along in my life. The most surprising love of all is the love you feel the moment you lay eyes on your precious child. It is honestly a feeling that is so very hard to describe. (Those of you fortunate enough to have children out there know what I am talking about.)

This love grows until you think that your heart will probably burst. (I will say, however, that during the years of 14 to 18, this love camouflages itself with another emotion entirely.)

When all is said and done, it really is all about love. As the years go by we come to know these truths: Love breaks our hearts, love lifts us up, love fills us, love heals us and love saves us. And, of course, we all know it’s true — and didn’t the Beatles say it so well — all you need is love.

Debbie Marsh is a first-grade teacher at Easterly Parkway Elementary. She sends love out to all the people who are so very important to her.

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