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

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

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

To Track or Not to Track? Outcomes of Serving All Students in the Same Classroom

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Today is the first post in a short series about some of my favorite current and past colleagues reflecting on this past year’s teaching experiences. This first entry comes from Dr. Taylor Cross who shares insights gained from his recent research.

By Dr. Taylor Cross

“When I was in high school growing up in the northeast Georgia mountains, I was in ‘honors’ or “accelerated” classes. I didn’t put myself there; it just happened…. Who I mostly did not have classes with were the students whose parents were the hourly blue collar workers, most of which had not gone to college, and some who had no real concept of what a college education would look like.”

When I was in high school growing up in the northeast Georgia mountains, I was in “honors” or “accelerated” classes. I didn’t put myself there; it just happened. I don’t think at the time I really processed what that meant or why I was in those classes, but I knew generally that I was “smart” and that the other kids in my classes were also “smart”. In these classes the other kids were, for the most part, other kids whose parents went to college, like mine did. Their parents were the lawyers, business-owners, realtors, medical professionals, educators, etc., that kept our little town churning along. Most of these kids’ families weren’t originally from this small town, but had found their way to it by virtue of job placements.

Who I mostly did not have classes with were the students whose parents were the hourly blue collar workers, most of which had not gone to college, and some who had no real concept of what a college education would look like. The majority of these students’ families had lived in this area for generations, and the culture of many of them was native Appalachian. I was “sheltered” from these students because as a student who had shown academic promise, I was lumped with others like me. As a matter of fact, when I look back in my high school yearbook, I don’t recognize about half of the students I see because I never had classes with them, even though my school was very small.

This was my high school education experience. I was put in classes with other kids “like” me because it was perceived that putting us together would benefit us, and having the kids who were “unlike” us together would be right for them. This is also what the majority of schools across America do today with their core subjects to a large degree. They track their gifted and talented students together, and they group their average and struggling students together. Is this good? Is it a problem? Do these situations truly benefit the students who are separated from one another? These are complicated questions for which the answers can vary from context to context. Continue reading

Student Voices: On Learning the Art of Teaching

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Today’s post is a quick reflection of a student’s time in my Teaching as a Profession class this year. The student is a sophomore and is considering becoming a school counselor one day. I appreciate her taking the time to share a few quick thoughts on what she is taking away from her time in the class. COMING SOON: An update on Mrs. C’s oceanography project! Continue reading