Two Valentine’s Days, another Ancient Greek lesson, and 5 tips to wrap up the semester with lots of LOVE


I had never thought about it but I’ve just realized most English classes in Brazil start a couple of weeks before the official Valentine’s Day in February, which celebrates love worldwide, and finish a couple of weeks after our national Valentine’s Day in June. What a lovely way to think about it, don’t you agree? Our students get to our classrooms at a time friends, families, couples, colleagues, and people in general, are exchanging cards and gifts to tell each other how much they love them. By June, when they’re leaving for their well-deserved break, they’re surrounded by couples, sometimes including themselves and their parents, doing the same thing.

But for anyone who has taught kids about February 14th in Brazil, here’s something to relate:

Teacher: Today we’re going to make Valentine’s Day cards

Kid#1: But I don’t have a boyfriend, teacher. I don’t like boys

Kid#2: I have a beautiful girlfriend at school, teacher! But she doesn’t like cards

Teacher: This Valentine’s Day is not just about couples, boyfriends and girlfriends, but it also celebrates the love you have for friends and family. It’s about affection.

Kids: That’s weird! (my 10yo kids actually had this conversation with me)

Jokes aside, this is the sort of confusion a date like that may create. All because of the word that is the main topic of songs, movies, poetry, paintings, books, etc, etc, etc… you name it. The word is LOVE. I’d say LOVE is the main substance of LIFE. Nonetheless,  LOVE can be used quite trivially today, expressing the feeling you have toward someone, an object you regard highly, a situation that makes you happy or laugh, anything really:

“I love you hair!”
“My students love me”

“I’m in love with her”
“Don’t you love this cold weather?”
“When that guy fell, I simply loved it!”

Interestingly enough, the Ancient Greeks were more thorough about LOVE than us. The sort of love the world celebrates in February can be found in the words φιλία, or philia, a type of brotherly love or friendship, and αγάπηor agape, love for everyone, the highest form of love, charity. In June, at least here in Brazil, the type of love we celebrate is a mix between στοργή, or storge, a familial love, also used to refer to companions in a loving relationship, and ἔρως, or eros, which meant lust, desire, passion.

With all those types of LOVE in mind, I have to say something important: I LOVE working with education! And I’m talking about αγάπη. I love my students and I love teaching. That’s why I have 5 tips for you to end the semester in a loving way:

  1. Celebrate your time together with a party. Ask them to bring some food and beverages. Have fun, talk about life, their future, their likes and dislikes;

  2. Share with them your ambitions and how they were an important part of life. I told my students I was applying for a Chevening Scholarship and that I was selected as a reserve. They all applauded me for my accomplishment, even though I may not be upgraded;

  3. Have a 5-min (it could 2) conversation with each one of them to tell them that they matter, they have a voice, and that they must pursue their dreams. Tell them that effort, ethics, constructive feedback, and determination will take them far in life;

  4. Ask them to write a paragraph with the most important lesson they learned from you. You can make a Google Form to make sure it stays anonymous if you like. Learn from their suggestions, ask for feedback;

  5. Write a letter to your students. I do it every semester at the beginning and at the end. I tell them things like:

“Dear …

-Your talent for drawing is incredible. Have you ever thought of taking a course? Having talent is only 50% of your journey. You need to practice and keep going.

All I wanted was simply to make sure you can learn better and grow as a person. 

I never meant to make you think I don’t like you. I want the best for you. 

I just love the way you help in class.

I think you need to see beyond our classes. You’ll use not only English but the lessons I tried to teach you about project design, public speaking, writing. Always remember that.

I know I wasn’t always the best teacher but I tried my best to make things better in class. Can you say the same? I want to help you achieve your dreams and I need your help to realize it.

You have such incredible potential. Remember that if you’re not willing to be wrong sometimes, you’re not going to learn as much. Being wrong is a great tool to help us grow.

I truly hope you remember my classes when you’re a successful and powerful woman.

Go on and change the world.


Your teacher

What are your tips?

Teaching is agape. Make sure you remember that.

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