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

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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

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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

New Series: Building an Ethic of Caring in the Classroom

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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