Was Napoleon Dynamite Right about Love?

Why do you teach?

Let's find out, GOSH!

In 2003, one of my undergrad professors made a statement to my class (a group of future special education teachers) that sounded something like this:

"Going into teaching because you 'love working with kids' is a terrible reason to become a teacher! You've got to have better reasons than that!"

Needless to say, that never sat right with me. What other lasting value and motivation can encourage a person to inspire the hearts and minds of young people, and create opportunities for tomorrow's adults- particularly those with additional needs? Surely an impetus rooted in love is the only thing that will see educators “go the distance” and work with a genuine passion and conviction throughout their ever-lengthening career.

It all depends on your definition of “love”

If you define love as “a fleeting emotion”, “a good experience”, or “a temporary feeling” then my professor was spot on! These are TERRIBLE reasons to go into education!

But if love grows, develops, endures problems, matures, perseveres, and seeks the welfare of others, you will find that love is a good enough reason to go into teaching.

In fact, it’s the best one of all.

Remember- love in its greatest expression brings wholeness, laughter, healing, confidence, wisdom, stewardship, connection, joy, hope, peace; it creates space to dream, create, fail, envision the future, and take risks without fear of failure or punishment.

Love disciplines with justice and seeks to protect and repair relationships. It has healthy boundaries and does not knowingly allow itself be manipulated, nor does it seek to control or manipulate others. Love seeks the best for others.

This “greatest expression” of love needs to be established; it needs to be pursued; it needs to be explored in every sphere of life we engage in.

Teachers (along with parents, of course) should be leading on this.

Let's have a D&M (deep and meaningful)

With this definition in mind, take some time to consider your answers to the following questions using the greatest expression of love mentioned above:

  • How can I love my family (spouse, parents, kids, etc) better?

  • How can I love my city/town/village better?

  • How can I love my colleagues/boss/leaders better?

  • How can I love my job better?

  • How can I demonstrate love in my classroom?

  • How can I pass it on?


Keep in mind-

Everything good and right and true originates in love.

Did you squirm while reading any of those questions above? If so, it’s likely:

(1) your definition of “love” may need changing, or

(2) you’ve been hurt in some way and this could mean uncomfortable growth.

This is the journey of a healthy and whole person – and I will be first to put my hand up and say “I want to go on this journey!” Even though it's often way uncomfortable.


When we see our job as a privilege rather than a provisional career path,

When we see our students’ potential rather than their problems,

When our profession is our passion rather than just a paycheck.

When we can do this is when we will truly be able to proclaim

“We get to teach!”

So was Napoleon Dynamite right or what?

Kind of. The song says:

I say love it is a flower, and you its only seed.”

Love is the flower and we are the seed, but we are not alone in this! Let’s keep going with Love as our ultimate motivation…