Building an Ethic of Caring in the Classroom: Throw Fear Away

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Welcome to the very first in a series dedicated to foregrounding love in lesson planning and instruction for building more caring classrooms. I realize that someone who just read that first sentence may have been immediately turned off by my use of the word “love.” Love is a big, complicated, and even messy concept that we know even the Greeks wrestled with as they needed at least four different words to try and capture its multiplicitous meaning. The love I am attempting to depict in this series is a love we commit out of inclination; we are urged from within to aid, help, be kind, and express care towards others. My hope is that expression of love is exactly what we want to convey to our students and that we would want a teacher to express to our own children.

While future posts will rotate their themes and focus, each going forward will have some practical, ready-to-implement learning experience you can use. The only exception will be posts that bring former students’ perspectives together for the sake of discussion. Today I am sharing one of the first experiences I developed for students well before I became a researcher, and I was simply seeking to better connect my students to the potentially extraordinary learning experience they could have in my classroom. I never named the experience, but I feel for the sake of making it a useful tool for others, I am calling it “Throw Fear Away.” Continue reading

New Series: Building an Ethic of Caring in the Classroom

My Post (3)

Starting this week, I will launch a weekly series that focuses directly on practical strategies on building a caring and supportive classroom for teachers. My goal is to equip teachers to build positive, meaningful relationship with and among their students with the implicit goal of support students’ academic performance and socio-emotional needs. The activities, projects, and group work strategies will largely pull from research I have done, but will also pull in personal experiences, including the voices of some of my former students. The series will explore identity, agency, literacy, policy, and related topics that impact teaching and learning. Really, if this series develops as I hope it does, then a teacher following the series should build a strong repository of classroom strategies and hopefully build on their capacity to reflect on their own teaching practices, which should hopefully embed an ethic of caring in much of what they do.

The series will truly be meant for all subject-area teachers and not just a language arts or humanities teacher. Each post will use Nel Noddings’ theory for an ethic of caring as a foundation, where rather than “only those acts performed out of duty (in conformity to principle) should be labeled moral, an ethic of caring prefers acts done out of love and natural inclination.”

Love and inclination, or a person’s natural tendency or urge to act, I posit, should be the universal foundation for any classroom–no matter the teacher, no matter the subject. This series will explore that possibility.

Look for these posts every Wednesday starting August 15th.

Have something specific about foregrounding love and care in the classroom you want discussed? Reach out to me on Twitter and share your thoughts! @theprofjones

Supersource!: Innovations for Teaching Literacy in the ELA and Special Education Classroom

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For many students in Georgia, today is the first day of school, which is the case for my district. Thankfully, students are going into classrooms like my friend’s, McCall Grosso. McCall is one of the most talented language arts teachers I have ever witnessed. Her ability to build relationships with students and get those students to believe in themselves is unparalleled. I am so thankful she was able to write this guest post today that highlights the work she and another teacher are doing at their school. The program they have developed is necessary for growing literacy skills with students who face academic challenges and in most cases, simply haven’t found the right book yet. McCall’s innovative and collaborative approach is both inspiring and a model for what could and should be done to elevate every student and promote literacy across learning levels. Please read on–I promise you will end feeling inspired! Continue reading

A New Kind of Pre-Planning

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In Georgia some kids are already back in school as I type this, but many are headed back to the classroom next week, which means many teachers across the state are spending this week pre-planning. For the first time in 12 years, I am not in the trenches, attending staff, team, and district meetings, preparing for parent/student orientation or for the first day of school. Honestly? It’s weird.  Continue reading

Back to Basics (for a Moment at Least)

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Yesterday I was invited to visit my former school to work with their rising freshmen for a breakout session focused on teamwork, collaboration, and project-based learning (PBL). I was thankful I had an opportunity to run a session alongside some really awesome student leaders. With only 25 minutes for each session, I wanted to grapple with misconceptions about how teams work, engage them in a collaborative activity, and thoughtfully reflect on how teamwork and collaboration are affected by group size, personalities, and unforeseen obstacles. What better way to do this than have students design, build, and play their own mini-golf hole? Continue reading