Bird Droppings January 6, 2012
Caring: A very precious commodity in teaching
As I am pondering my last minutes before the school day starts. The air temperature is warming again outside and we are under a thinking its spring again weather watch tonight through next week. The anticipation of some rain and warm weather wants me to get my garden tools out. I am a bit disconcerted although I have thoroughly enjoyed my holidays between a grand baby and family it has been wonderful but really with rain put off much yard work. I have found as I read comments from teachers and administrators that have facebook accounts there are differing degrees of involvement. Some use solely with a few friends, some especially younger teachers have a large number of college peers and work related friends, some teachers have former students, and some have student’s teacher’s administrators and professors and numerous others. Reading statuses and updates coming from my psychology background I see many teachers who are concerned and caring people. However after being back in teaching nearly eleven years I find caring is a very precious commodity in teaching and one that is difficult to teach others.
“Teaching is to move people to choose differently.” Dr. Maxine Greene, educator, author and caring person
Working in what was once a rural county now not much more than an extension of Atlanta there are many who still adhere to the old ways, politically, religiously, culturally, socially and even educationally. I can write my name that is enough. Last year we experienced an assassination attempt on a sitting congress women in Arizona and rhetoric in the current debates and ads is focusing on the negative aspects on both sides as to fanning the flames. However it was not that many years ago in this county people would be lynched, moonshine was the main industry and killing someone and losing a body was part of doing business. In another dropping recently I issued a line or two about mental institutions closing and how there were many who twenty five years ago would be residents of said institution are now in politics, religion, military, jail, homeless and or waiting on the right trigger to set them off. It has been made very clear the individual involved in the shooting last year was mentally ill which will play well in his court hearings and trial. But how do we as teacher’s help children choose differently.
“… Martin Buber had what he called a life of creativity in mind, and also a capacity for participation and partaking. He said that all human beings desire to make things, and what children desire most of all is their share in the becoming of things. Through their own intensively experienced actions, something arises that was not there before. This notion of participant experience- and sharing in the becoming of things- comes very close to what we mean by aesthetic education.” Dr. Maxine Greene, Educator, Author, Philosopher, Professor and caring person
Maybe I should post the Foxfire Core Practices that I have been writing about for several years. I like this idea of participant experience. We need to be actively involved in learning both as teacher and as students.
“Not only do we want to keep the aesthetic adventures into meaning visible and potent in the schools, along with the other ways there are of making or achieving or discovering meanings. We want to keep enhancing them with some understanding of contexts- movements, styles, traditions- and connections among diverse works at different modes of history. For one thing, we know very well that none of us comes to any work of art devoid of context or with what has been called a totally ‘innocent eye.” Dr. Maxine Greene, Educator, Author, Philosopher, Professor and caring person
I have watched a new math curriculum reek havoc with students and teachers. The idea to simplify titles of courses to Math I, II, III, and IV does not do justice to the texts being used or curriculum proposed. Several years ago the test groups failed the first proto type test miserably and continually the curve has to be extreme to provide some passing numbers. The teachers are the same ones who were good and great teachers just a few months back but a simple change in state curriculum and we go backwards. The content needs context and it needs reasons.
“I hope you think about the wonder of multiple perspectives in your own experience. I hope you think about what happens to you- and, we would all hope, to our students- when it becomes possible to abandon one- dimensional viewing, to look from many vantage points and, in doing so, construct meanings scarcely suspected before.” Dr. Maxine Greene, Educator, Author, Philosopher, Professor and caring person
I am being hard on the math curriculum but the idea we are so far behind is not a valid one. In the US of all the major industrialized countries we are the only one that mandates education for all children. On international testing we tend to be down the list in part because of the greater number of children of all makes and models being tested. There are ideas within Maxine Greene’s words from 2003 that could help a teacher or teachers improve how they respond to students. Changing perspective looking from a different vantage point rather than simply that podium in the front of the room can make a world of difference. A simple thought but world changing.
“Our object, where public schools children and young people are concerned is to provide increasing numbers of opportunities for tapping into long unheard frequencies, for opening new perspectives on a world increasingly shared. It seems to me that we can only do so with regard for the situated lives of diverse children and respect for the differences in their experience.” Dr. Maxine Greene, Educator, Author, Philosopher, Professor and caring person
Seeing the differences in children is a sign of a great teacher. For it is in being able to see each child as unique and then in turn being able to, pardon the word diversify the teaching enough to interest all children. That is in and of itself a huge task.
“It is sometimes said that ‘all teachers care.’ It is because they care that people go into teaching.” Dr. Nel Noddings, Author, Educator, Professor, Philosopher and a caring person
I honestly do think, no one goes into teaching not caring. Somewhere along the line maybe they forget and get too caught up in teaching to the test, making sure they cover every miniscule detail in the curriculum map or just trying to get a good appraisal. As I have watched good teachers and great teachers it is that caring aspect that sets them apart. They tend to build relationships with students. They try to understand why a student comes to school the way they do not just simply give a zero for a missed assignment.
“In a caring relation or encounter, the cared-for recognizes the caring and responds in some detectable manner. An infant smiles and wriggles in response to it mother’s care giving. A student may acknowledge her teacher’s caring directly, with verbal gratitude, or simply pursue her own project more confidently. The receptive teacher can see that her caring has been received by monitoring her students’ responses. Without an affirmative response from the cared-for, we cannot call an encounter or relation caring.” Dr. Nel Noddings, Author, Educator, Professor, Philosopher and a caring person
Teaching is so much more than a job and if only that were a teachable topic. For many years I have searched for what it is that sets apart the truly great teachers and simplified into one word it is caring. If only we could magnify and personify and spread that word through the world. For far too long I have ended my droppings each day with the same line. Please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your heart and to always give thanks.
PS. A former high school student from our high school asked me to read her blog and comment and I was impressed.
“In my teaching, I aspire to instill a love of learning in my students — a drive that makes them into lifelong, voluntary seekers of information, of truth, of beauty. I believe this is possible (though not easy) to do for every one of my students. However, schools today are not set up in a way that is conducive to such inspiration. Large classrooms where the overlooked middle continues to blend and disappear, lesson plans designed around standardized tests, and isolated approaches to things like grammar and vocabulary do not light a fire in students. How can I say this with such certainty? Because I, as a student, was largely a product of such a system — and I did not have the fire that I value so much today. There were teachers who made a difference — absolutely — but always by bucking the system, if ever so slightly. No teacher who recites standards and lives out of a workbook can inspire a student. If you want students who chase after learning, give them something to learn that matters! In my temporary classroom of seventh graders, we are reading The Giver, and every day I love to watch my students fight with their own perceptions of “normal” and “utopia.” They are learning. They aren’t filling in bubbles, they aren’t copying definitions. They are thinking. They are talking. And they are learning.” Kimberly Marsh, newly graduated educator