Building an Ethic of Caring in the Classroom: Winners and Losers

My Post (3)

See parts 1, 2, 3, and 4.

Philosophically, I do not care for grades, grading, or the culture both perpetuate. I live in a world where grades exist and grading must be done, so as my own philosophy of teaching has tilted closer and closer to the belief that grades and grading should be eliminated, I have learned to think about how to exist the system and meet the needs of students. Some scholars would be disappointed to see me write this as a researcher (Anderson, 2018), but more on this later.

Why this disdain for grades? The short answer is I don’t want to continue to support a system that inherently means some kids win and some kids lose. The catalyst for my philosophy is rooted in my doctoral studies. As I read more, discussed more, and explored my own beliefs about education, I concluded a few years ago that I no longer believe there is a real purpose for grades, and I personally believe they harm learning.

Today’s post does not really call for eliminating grading, but rather more importantly, I will advise on some practical ways to approach a classroom where grades must exist, but they do not have to define the learning. Continue reading

Building an Ethic of Caring in the Classroom: The Emotional Elevator

My Post (3)

Series: Part 1//Part 2//Part3

We all ride in the emotional elevator–sometimes daily, other times weekly, and there are a few of us who only tend ride it occasionally, sparingly.

The emotional elevator is a term used to talk about our thoughts’ journey back and forth between the lower (emotional pain and pleasure centers) and upper (cortex, rational thought) parts of our brain. Out of the FOG explains the term “riding the emotional elevator” well and gives some great examples if you want to know more about the concept.

Most of us spend the majority of our lives moving up the emotional elevator (i.e. higher order thinking, rational thought), but at times our elevator can plummet to a lower floor quickly, where we find ourselves reacting out what feels good in the moment, ignoring the long term consequences of an action. While for most adults this is more of an occasional occurrence (with exceptions of course), an adolescent’s emotional elevator is moving between floors regularly and often. Educators can play a unique role in their classrooms during what is truly a volitale for a student during their middle school and high school years.

But honestly, this post is not about students’ emotional elevator journies; it’s about teachers’. Continue reading

Building an Ethic of Caring in the Classroom: Mindfulness

My Post (3)

Series Part 1//Part 2

“I can’t imagine a time you were an impatient teacher!”

When I tell new colleagues, parents, or students that I once considered myself an impatient, borderline mean teacher, they often say, almost verbatim, the statement above. I have worked diligently and intently on becoming the kind of teacher any student would want to have and that I know I would want my own children to have, but the truth is in my early years out of college, I was not that teacher. That’s not to say I was horrible, but I was the type of teacher who would snap at a student if they asked for directions I had just explained to the class. I used sarcasm regularly when I considered a student’s actions dumb or ignorant. I taught as though everyone was listening, and I was at the center of all learning. Typing those admissions out now hurts, but they are true and part of who I was.

Last week’s post gave five practical ways to embed caring in a classroom. Today’s post is a bit more philosophical and will challenge some people’s beliefs concerning discipline and behavior. My goal is not to ruffle feathers so much as to provide a different lens to consider when acting as an agent in a classroom, whether that agent be a student or the teacher. The title, “Mindfulness,” is a plea for teachers to be forthright with their caring philosophies in their classroom as well as for teachers to be reflective and thoughtful–parts of myself that I had to develop once I was self-aware of my impatience and treatment of students. A teacher’s job is challenging on many levels to say the least, and we are all human. Humans make mistakes, including saying and doing harmful and even malicious words and actions respectively. While we cannot eliminate that “bad day” we may all have from time to time, we can, as educators, be far more mindful of how we act and what we say even on the bad days. I consider the advice in today’s post practical too, but I recognize not everyone will agree with the advice. If anything, the post is simply sharing what I have found to be most effective in my classroom and what has made a me a better, more reflective and caring teacher. Continue reading