One Problem with Loving Our Students

Jan 30, 2017

The problem with really loving our students is that we really love our students. It’s a vulnerable situation. What if they don’t love us back? And what would be evidence of such love? That they treat us honorably? That they divulge their truest beliefs? That they recognize something in us worthy of imitation? And what if they don’t? Or worse, what if they do and then they devastate us with the ultimate failure of judgment?

When I received word that one of my students had taken his own life, vulnerability surfaced in the form of utter confusion. I teach among others who view our students as image-bearers. If we become what we behold, were we not beholding Truth? Were we not beholding Goodness? Had Beauty failed us, or had we failed Beauty? The loss of this young man was the antithesis to all held dear - the antithesis to harmony. It shattered us.

I say “us” because our student left a best friend, a charming girl (or two) on whom he had a crush, an empty chair in an intimate circle. Our reading of Cicero’s “The Rarity of Friendship” was painful minus one friend. 

I’d relished visions of wholeness. His loss left a gaping hole.  And rationalizing could not cover the hole. When we lack understanding, we ask questions, but this time there were so many questions and so few answers.  

Surely it isn’t Truth, Goodness, and Beauty that failed us. Surely we can’t force a child to feast at the banqueting table. Surely that child’s very brain wasn’t fully developed, wasn’t whole. It was still hungry. And so am I.  

Because when one seeks the nourishment of the soul that classical education offers, that very hunger begets more hunger. Like the radiance of light that beacons seekers toward greater light, the fireflies that illumine my path don’t ignite the whole way, at least not yet. The morsels of epiphany are the partial display of the Christ that compels my pursuit to see His Wholeness more fully.  

The fragmentation of loss only increases the hunger, because the soul knows that Christ, the very essence of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty, didn’t take His own life; He gave His own life. 

My students and I now behold two broken bodies; one makes the other whole. Christ’s body broken for us acknowledges our disheveled hopes longing desperately to be reconciled.  

And this, as we question together, is our epiphany, an epiphany that brings us hope but acknowledges our longing. Only Christ is whole. He heals our broken bits of beauty. 

Julie Apel

Julie Apel

Julie Apel relishes all things beautiful, including Latin, Literature, and Greek sunsets. She teaches History, Logic, Latin, and Composition at a Classical School near Austin, Texas. Her favorite students are her own three children, whom she homeschooled for 10 years. She’s a current Gulf Coast Circe apprentice and a grateful learner of Classical education.