Most of the time, it’s obvious why students love some teachers. Very often, these are the teachers who bring cookies, hug students hello and goodbye and generally emanate kindness.

What surprises me is the love expressed by students for the teachers who don’t fit this description. Quite recently, I was a guest teacher for a math teacher who is gruff, definitive and without shades of gray.

Amazingly, several students expressed that Mr. Gruff was their favorite teacher. When asked why, they were at a loss for reasons, causing me to reach several conclusions.

For one, many students require and respect firm guidelines. They eliminate uncertainty, delete some decision-making and posit the source as a reputable authority.

Surprisingly, some interpret discipline as kindness. My guess is that this relates directly to abandonment. In other words, if you loved me, you wouldn’t check out on any level. Because you don’t, you ensure that I follow a path that is good for me.

And sometimes, it’s simply perception. Students generally understand which teachers (and guest teachers) care about them and about educating them. In certain circumstances, we are the only people anywhere who do. And beyond all of those realizations, there is an emotion that defies definition.

It’s the look I get when I tell a student that my day is better because he’s in class. It’s the look from a few students when they enter a classroom to find candy on their desks. And it’s the look I give the student who brings me a carefully developed drawing of a cherished puppy. Shalom.

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