Caring is a very precious commodity in life and some thoughts from Maxine Greene

Bird Droppings March 25, 2022

Caring is a very precious commodity in life

And some thoughts from Maxine Greene

As I am pondering, sitting at my computer working on my dissertation, I can hear the sounds of the neighborhood outside my window. I just finished reading an article dealing with charter schools and how they exclude many students. The air temperature is chilly outside. We are under a small blanket of clouds, much like education is shrouded in this mist of uncertainty, even more so with a new Secretary ahead. We have climbed over the mountain in Georgia regarding budget cuts and possible increases in education spending. I spoke with one of the administrators today about possible retirement; I am a bit disconcerted by discussions and newspaper articles recently across the nation regarding teachers. I love teaching and will likely try and get back into working with teachers in public schools and teaching some college. I have thoroughly enjoyed my recent visit with grandbabies; it has been fantastic.

As I read comments from teachers and administrators who have Facebook accounts, I have found differing degrees of involvement in this teaching profession. On the one hand, I find this medium a valuable tool, while some use it solely with a few friends. Younger teachers have many college peers and work-related friends; some teachers have former students, 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. After being back in teaching for over twenty years, I find caring is a precious commodity in life and teaching teachers to care is complicated.

“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, many still adhere to the old ways, politically, religiously, culturally, socially, and even educationally. I can write my name, and that is enough. We experienced an assassination attempt on a sitting Congress Women in Arizona only a few years back. There was a mass shooting in a school in New England, and rhetoric focused on everything but the shooting of school children. It was not that long ago we had a stand-off in Oregon that had people on both sides fanning the flames. However, it was not that many years ago in this county people would be lynched, moonshine was the primary industry, and killing someone and losing a body was part of doing business.

Early in the week in my writings, 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 institutions are now in politics, religion, military, jail, homeless, and or waiting on the right trigger to set them off. It has been made apparent the individuals involved in the numerous shootings were mentally ill, which will play well in various congressional, court, and civil meetings, hearings, and trials. But how do we teachers help children choose differently borrowing from that great educator Maxine Greene?

“… 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 teachers 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 various works at different modes of history. 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 wreak havoc with students and teachers, not just in math, as math dictates the entire school schedule. The idea to simplify titles of courses to Math I, II, III, and IV does not do justice to the texts being used or the 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 excellent teachers just a few months back but a simple change in the state curriculum, and we go backward. 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 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. There is a significant demographic left out of scores: children who live in poverty. We tend to be down the list on international testing because of the more significant 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 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 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 considerable 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 minuscule detail in the curriculum map or just trying to get a good appraisal. As I have watched good teachers and great teachers, that caring aspect sets them apart. They tend to build relationships with students. They try to understand why students come to school the way they do, not just simply giving 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 its mother’s caregiving. 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 sets apart the truly great teachers and simplified into one word: caring. If only we could magnify and personify and spread that word worldwide. I have ended my droppings each day with the same line for far too long. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and your heart and give thanks namaste.

 My family and friends, I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)


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