Teachers, like all of us, have love tanks. They give of themselves wholeheartedly, repeatedly, unconditionally. Most often the afternoon bell leaves them tired, perhaps a little weary, but always fulfilled because teachers can lay their heads down on their pillows at night knowing they emptied their love tanks completely that day. Every day.
People forget, though, that teachers are humans, too. They have their own personal struggles outside the classroom, requiring them to possess a keen ability to tuck their heart hurt way down underneath the cheery facade they must present to their impressionable students. In the public-school setting, there simply is no time to wallow, to sink, to weaken.
There are these pillars of strength all around us. Our schools are filled with powerful human beings who masterfully balance extreme challenge in their personal lives with the beautiful craft of instruction within their classrooms. Somehow, somewhere they find refilling stations along the way to keep them sane, keep them happy, keep them able to continue giving to their students.
It’s hard to hide hurt, though. It’s difficult to act like things are going well, when pain is wreaking havoc on the inside. And the most attentive, intuitive students can see pain in their teacher’s face, especially the face of a teacher who empties out his love tank on his students time and time again - who pours his heart and soul into his kids, his school, his coworkers every single day, despite what may be lurking within his own life to steal his joy, take his health, rob him of his physical strength.
I don’t think I know a stronger master of balance than Larry Caddell at Carver High. It would be tough to find a teacher with a bigger love tank than Larry Caddell at Carver High. Perhaps I’ll never meet a more truthful smile-giver than Larry Caddell at Carver High. His isn’t a facade of strength and cheer, either. His is a genuine, to the core, real-deal soul of sustenance that our kids need to see and feel and watch and learn from, no doubt.
And they have. A blessed group of English students get drenched by Mr. Caddell’s love tank every day. They are learning from a man who fights cancer with a never-faltering spirit of positivity – a man who grades papers in the midst of physical drain, who is steadfast in his teaching despite the battle waged within his body, and who loves his students with a constant love that inspires and changes them. A man with a bulging love tank he can’t contain…and doesn’t contain.
And so, they walked. They left their homes on foot and walked. From their neighborhood to the front doors of St. Frances Hospital, they walked. Balloons in hand, they paid Mr. Caddell a visit in his hospital room. When their teacher was at his physical weakest, they were at their strongest, and so…they walked. They stepped in when he needed refueling. When cancer was trying to drain him dry, his kids walked to him - went to him to hold his hand, hug his neck, fill him up.
That’s what the love of a teacher does. It becomes cyclical. It becomes contagious. It becomes overpowering, overcoming, and tank-filling. It becomes a monumental lesson for us all – teachers and non-teachers alike. Empty your love tank. Drain it dry. Pour it all out, and see what happens. Watch who comes walking towards you to fill you back up. You might just be surprised.