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The Presence of Love

Teaching with Purpose

During the COVID-19 school closures, the thing I missed the most was not being in the presence of my students. There is something rich and irreplaceable about the physical proximity of other souls in a classroom. I started to wonder: What is that something, specifically? 

As I explored this question, I came across an idea in Journey of the Soul by Bill and Kristi Gaultiere. It helped me make sense of why I was missing the physical presence of my students. The Gaultieres wrote,

Notice that your soul isn't a wispy little ghost inside you that floats up to heaven when you die, like it's portrayed in the movies. It's actually your whole person. Flowing out from deep inside you, it encompasses your body and expands out into your social world. In other words, your soul is so large that your body is actually inside your soul. That's why people in the same room can feel each other's energy and mood, even without talking.

This idea had such explanatory power for me. It helped me put into words what I was missing then, and it helps me understand why I feel so refreshed and invigorated (and exhausted) after a day of teaching now. It also helps me understand the importance of my loving presence in my classroom. 

When I don’t feel loving towards my students, they notice. And this is why it is so important for me to prioritize cultivating a pure heart towards my students.

How do I do this? 

Well, when I begin to notice that a certain student is wearing on my nerves or a certain class is frustrating me, my flesh wants to say, It’s okay, Dave–it’s not you; it’s them! Kids these days, ya know? 

There is something rich and irreplaceable about the physical proximity of other souls in a classroom.

But the Holy Spirit has taught me that in these times, I often just need a brief walk with God. When I have a moment—during lunch or prep or right after school—I leave my phone behind and walk to a wooded place near my school to be alone with God and away from the space where I am tempted to do things through my own power to solve my growing relational problem.

While on the walk, I let Him know how I’m feeling. I tell Him that I know He loves my students. I ask Him to show me how I can do better. And I ask Him to change my heart towards my students.

I don’t do this out of some sense of guilt or duty. I do this because He’s proven to be the most reliable and effective Counselor for any problem I’m having with my students.  Without fail, shortly after these walks, I find a renewed lightness toward a student, spot a new bit of wonder in a student, or think of some aspect of classroom management where I can improve. 

There are many areas of my Christian life in which I struggle to have faith, but this is not one of them. Part of this, I think, is because when I ask God to help me love my students, I’m asking Him for something that He so fervently wants—my students to experience the presence of love. Not overt proselytization, but the presence of a “regular old” history teacher who genuinely loves his students.

Dave Stuart Jr. is a husband and dad who teaches high school students in a small town. He writes about teaching students toward long-term flourishing at


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