A heart-shaped cloud floating in the blue sky

What Role Does Love Play in the Liberation of Students?

Dr. Catherine Burns

By Dr. Catherine Burns, Chief Academic Officer

At Accelerate Institute, we are driven by the guiding belief that the principal is the catalyst for transformation.

The role has never been more difficult than it is right now, so—as we progress into this school year—it is imperative for leaders to spend some time reflecting and establishing your vision for the months to come.

Given the current environment that we now find ourselves in after principals led fearlessly throughout the previous school year, I ask that you take a risk and consider the important role of peace, love, and belonging in your efforts to move forward.

In her refreshing and spiritual treatise, “All About Love: New Visions,” the renowned author and social activist bell hooks takes readers on a journey beyond the confines of intellect and into the greatest depths of the heart. The work has an abundance of wisdom to offer—especially for principals.

As you read the following quotes from hooks’ book below, I invite you to consider her words and reflect on the question, “What feelings come up for myself as a principal as I explore these observations on lost love, belonging, and moving forward?”

    • “In modern life we have become so busy with our daily affairs and thoughts that we have lost [the] essential art of taking time to converse with our hearts.” (p. xii)
    • “The search for love continues even in the face of great odds. The affirmation of love’s possibility sprawling across the block gave me hope.” (p. xv)
    • “Youth culture today is cynical about love. And that cynicism has come from their pervasive feeling that love cannot be found.” (p. xviii)
    • “The word ‘love’ is most often defined as a noun, yet all the more astute theorists of love acknowledge that we would all love better if we used it as a verb.” (p. 4)
    • “Rarely, if ever, are any of us healed in isolation. Healing is an act of communion.” (p. 214) This is healthy interdependency
    • “To know compassion fully is to engage in a process of forgiveness and recognition that enables us to release all the baggage we carry that serves as a barrier to healing. Compassion and forgiveness reconnect us.” (p. 217)
At Growth Accelerator Principal Aneesa Sergeant’s UChicago Charter School – North Kenwood Oakland, you can’t have school culture without “heart”

So, leaders, I ask you: how can the presence of love, compassion, and forgiveness in your heart empower you to release baggage that you are still carrying as you reflect on all that your community has experienced in the previous school year? Consider the following:

    • How can grounding your community in love help you to better release the pain of the past year and move forward?
    • Who do you need to forgive? Do you need to forgive yourself?
    • What painful realizations do you need to acknowledge, and then leave in the past?
    • Do you need to make amends with anyone?

With the help of deep reflection about last school year, principals and your teams can let go and move forward with a deeper focus on how you will work together to accomplish your vision and goals for this school year. 

And please, ground all of your efforts in love—because love is a verb, and it will set you free.

For more from bell hooks, listen to her September, 2000 reading from, “All About Love.”