In a conversation with a friend I hadn't seen in a while, the friend said he loved his students and wouldn't trade them for anything. (He's at a community college.) I thought that was interesting -- what does that mean? I suppose it means he's happy working with them; I expect it means he respects them and gets some gratification from helping them. (I feel a little Asperger's trying to parse out what this means...)
Do I love my students? I really enjoy working with some of them and I have very collegial relationships with some. I have friends from both the lower-level classes I've taught and the independent research I've conducted. But I guess I wouldn't say I love my students. This is why I'm pseudonymous, by the way -- it seems absolute heresy to say such things out loud. I don't feel like I can be totally honest without repercussions.
I respect them and try to work with them as adults, while keeping in mind that college students are still developing their adult skills. I enjoy working with them overall. Love? I wonder if we have different meanings for the word "love" -- I know that I don't have the same ideas as everyone else on what romantic love is.
Well, this is part of the largest "soft question" -- I don't love my job. Are we supposed to? Our American ideas of fulfillment through career are a little weird and I don't quite buy into it. Part of the problem as I analyze my job satisfaction is that I get very frustrated at not being able to help all students understand and love mathematics. Like any relationship, this is a two-way street. The students also have to make an effort, and not all do: it's a bad relationship in that respect.
But it would be cool to have a job, and students, I loved. Is it possible?