Nodding’s brings up a concept within the realm of education that is rarely talked about. This is the idea of being nice and caring to students of all ages. Education books line the shelves of bookstores focusing on the strategies teachers should use to teach their students to read, write and be successful in math. However, there are few books on the notion of being nice to students and showing them true care and respect. Nodding’s has proven that simply being kind and respectful can go a long ways in educating students.
Personally, I like and appreciate Nodding’s thoughts. There is a lot to be said for teaching with kindness and caring. Students deserve for their teachers to be nice to them. This includes willingly tying shoes, giving a snack, offering to make a phone call on their behalf or helping them complete college admission papers. It is sad that in the state of our current education system, these acts of kindness have been replaced by academics, academics, academics.
I am certainly not saying that academics are not important. In fact, being kind to a student could be helping them with homework or tutoring them in a specific subject. However, doing well academically has been stressed to teachers so much that they often forget they are teaching real human beings with feelings. Teachers are overworked and over stressed and the last thing they want to do is tie Johnny’s shoe for the third time that day. However, that is exactly what Johnny needs at that moment. By tying his shoe yet again, the teacher demonstrates that they care enough about him to take care of his needs that may not relate to the science project he is supposed to be working on. I have actually witnessed teachers that have refused to tie shoes or zip up coats. They believe they are teaching their students independence and are sending a message to the student’s parents that they need to teach them these things. However, in the midst of making this point, they are showing the student that they don’t care. Of course, this example is for a young child, but the point is the same. Why should a student work hard for a teacher that does not care about them?
Nodding’s however, has created an entire philosophy in which the culture is focused on caring and being nice to others and to the surprise of others students achieve quite well when this approach is used. This philosophy is known as ethical caring and it should be promoted more within the field of education. However, Noddings places natural caring over ethical caring.
Education is a center point of our society. If caring is of primary importance in the educational environment, then it is expected that caring will continue over into general society.
Caring takes place through actions. We demonstrate to others by our actions whether or not we care about them. Even the youngest of students recognize acts of caring. It does not good to talk about a caring environment if the actions are not there to back it up. Demonstrating acts of caring should be celebrated and recognized in schools just as much as successful test scores. In fact, I think they should be celebrated more than test scores. I believe that if one creates a caring and ethical environment then the academics will come.
However, for a young educator trying to get their first job or even for experienced educators trying to change positions, they cannot go into a job interview and say, “If I’m nice to the students, then my students will have good test scores.” They would be laughed right out of the interview. Administrators want to hear about specific teaching strategies and individualization, structure, a focus on academics and meeting expected test scores. While school leaders do not want teachers that are mean to students, they want the focus to be on academics and if that means tough love, then so be it. This is a dilemma for educators such as myself who believe that teaching starts with kindness and caring.
Education involves more than just passing along information to the students. Those in education should be there because they care about the students they are teaching. They are certainly not in it for the money and hopefully they did not choose education as a career just to have summers off. There has to be an element of caring.
I think that teachers need to engage in more dialogue about caring environments and including ethics in education. If a student believes that the teacher does not care, then why should they do their homework or put forth an effort? Caring is at the basis of student success. In addition, parents should know that their children are heading off to spend the day with people who care about them. Schools care about the academic success of their students, which they should. Schools celebrate their academic success with rewards, scholarships and recognition. There are few recognition opportunities for those that demonstrate ethical decision making and caring towards others.
If I were a school administrator, I would expect that each teacher set up a caring classroom. That would lead to a caring culture in the entire school. We would recognize acts of kindness from both staff and students. Display of proper ethics would be expected. Of course, so would academic success. There would be no denying of shoe tying and no criticizing of the student who didn’t do his homework because he has to work after school to support his family. There would be caring and understanding and an effort to solve the homework issue. That is the kind of environment that I want to work in and I hope that I can help promote more caring and ethics in schools.