The Various Shapes of Love in the Language Classroom

January 2024

What better way to begin the new year than by reflecting on love? This issue includes many touching tales of love from our regular readers. Of course, we also make sure to look at the neuroscience behind love as well! 

Our cover: “The giving of love is an education in itself.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

Cover photo by Yan Krukau on Pexels; others from Pixabay & Unsplash            

Watch before you read...

We’re beginning 2024 by delving into love, with our readers as our main contributors. In the Main podcast episode, Martha Burtis discusses various aspects of love and care in the college classroom. In the More podcast episode, Richard Davidson emphasizes the usefulness of cultivating kindness and compassion in children and teenagers in educational settings. To set the stage of our January issue, Afon (Mohammad) Khari draws connections between love in educational contexts and the neuroscience of love.

In the Think Tank, Heather McCulloch writes about what people with disabilities are looking for in a relationship. Then, James Broxholme, Pinar Sekmen, Lorna Beduya, Marc Helgesen, Tim Murphey, and Curtis Kelly give us small, beautiful love gems. Next, Tim Murphey ruminates on the positive effects of having students sing a simple “I love you” song. Patrick T. Randolph recounts a memorable teaching experience of guiding students toward helping a struggling classmate. Meredith Stephens reveals how learning a language can be the starting point of deep relationships. Finally, in our PLUS section, five BRAIN SIG members share with us their forum presentations from the JALT International Conference in November 2023.

Martha Burtis

Teacher of the Ear -- Love

Richard Davidson

On Being -- A Neuroscientist on Love and Learning

Our Thoughts on Love

Hearts and Minds Afon (Mohammad) Khari

In the intricate maze of human experience, love stands as a profound force that transcends boundaries, igniting passions, and shaping our very essence. As educators, we navigate the complex landscape of minds and hearts, weaving connections that extend beyond the confines of textbooks and classrooms. In our latest issue, we investigate the theme that binds us all: love. Guided by insights from neuroscience, psychology, and the lived experiences of educators, we explore the deep impact of love on the teaching and learning journey.

Think Tank Articles

Prom Date for Life Heather McCulloch

In April or May, many American high school students attend prom, a formal dance event. This is a magical night where students wear formal attire, eat extravagant meals, and ride in a limousine. In the time leading up to this occasion, news outlets will feature stories with titles like, “Boy invites girl in a wheelchair to prom,” “Boy invites girl with autism to prom,” and “Boy invites blind girl to prom.” The newscasters and audience celebrate these boys for inviting girls who do not otherwise have the opportunity to go to prom. In such stories most of the focus is placed on the heroic actions of the boys. While I believe it is great that neurodivergent and disabled young women are attending prom, the boys’ behavior should not be treated as heroic.

Love Stories from our Gentle-Hearted Readers Think Tank Readers

Read stories on love shared by our readers!!

Singing and Saying: “I Love You" Tim Murphey

During my time teaching in Asia, to take our relationships to a deeper and more personal level, I would read to my students Love You Forever (Munsch 1986, 54th printing 1997), a wonderful bestselling children’s book by Canadian author Robert Munsch. I would also get them to sing the short, 4-line song “Love You Forever” as it re-occurred every three or four pages in the book, sung first by a mother to her baby, and then later by the grown-up baby to his brand-new baby. Later, a PowerPoint of the book became available so I would not have to walk around the room showing the pictures in the book. There is a version of the PowerPoint here.

One Young Man and 10 Sweet Souls Patrick T. Randolph

Love in the classroom takes many forms: One of my earliest experiences dates back to graduate school. I taught a high intermediate ESL grammar class comprised of 10 young ladies and one young man. The young man, Steven, wasn’t the best student. In fact, he struggled the most and was not catching on to the concepts. But he tried hard—he was tenacious. Giving up was not in his vocabulary. He’d raise his hand shyly and leave it in the air until he was called on. “Yes, Steven?” I say smiling.

The Japanese Language as a Catalyst for Love Meredith Stephens

When I started university at age seventeen, I chose Japanese as one of the four subjects in the first year of my Humanities degree. I had studied Japanese for five years at high school, and was curious to learn more. In the late seventies in Australia, there was a short window when university education was free. Funding for small classes was available, and for the three years of my degree, I took Japanese five days a week. In the third year, all but three of the students had dropped out. This intensive contact with my classmates turned out to foster some strong friendships. One of my classmates was Alex. He was studying the Sciences, and I was his only Humanities friend…

Think Tank Plus

Mindsets Again Think Tank Team

Editor’s note: In November, the Mind, Brain, and Education Forum at the JALT 2023 conference featured five short presentations on Mindsets, in collaboration with our issue on the same topic. They have generously offered us their abstracts and PowerPoint PDFs.

Call for Contributions: Ideas and Articles Think Tank Staff

Become a Think Tank star! Here are some of the future issue topics we are thinking about. Would you, or anyone you know, like to write about any of these? Or is there another topic you’d like to recommend? Do you have any suggestions for lead-in, or just plain interesting, videos? How about writing a book review? Or sending us a story about your experiences? Contact us.

Going Deeper

Tim’s Students presenting Young, Strong, and Beautiful

(watch the video here) offers this short but fascinating video on the neuroscience of love.

The MindBrained Think Tanks+

is produced by the Japan Association for Language Teaching (JALT) Mind, Brain, and Education Special Interest Group (BRAIN SIG). Kyoto, Japan. (ISSN 2434-1002)

Editorial Staff

Stephen M. Ryan                Julia Daley                   Marc Helgesen

           Heather Kretschmer          Curtis H. Kelly              Skye Playsted              

  Jason Walters                    Nicky De Proost             Mohammad Khari



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