Today I read several posts by Bill Boyle about the Ethics of Care which he wrote in response to Drop Outs and Push Outs: Finding Hope at a School That Actualizes the Ethic of Care, by Wanda Cassidy and Antia Bates. I especially enjoyed Part 2, The Enactment of Care.
In today’s standardized and evaluated world, teachers are demanded to teach students following steps of teaching [see any teacher evaluation checklist of teaching– find several here] according to standards that are tested to see if teachers and students have stayed focused on those learning bits.
It’s true that all of those designing these teaching criteria include “building relationships,” but that’s not the focus — there are hundreds of bits that teachers must demonstrate in order to be proficient while teaching, planning, implementing, assessing, and reporting on all the student standards.
So I really liked this article because as I walk down the halls of my building and peek in the classrooms, I see teachers building relationships with their students. We changing our focus. We are building a climate that says we care. Because that’s the most important part, and because we are tired of the stress from those who demand so much of us but who have not walked in our shoes. Because we want to teach, to educate, draw out the potential of each child. Knowing that we care about their needs, their talents, provides the path to guiding kids to learn. Relationships come first. We teach students.
And we care unconditionally, as the blog shares:
“The teachers stressed that what is important is not students’ respect for teachers and other staff, but rather the reverse, staff members’ respect for each and every student. Respect for students is given unconditionally and is not based on accomplishments, good behavior, or compliance, but simply as response to ‘their individuality.’”
We consider the child where s/he is, from his world, [ from the blog, it’s “apprehending… the other’s reality”]. The post also adds this:
“In Zulu, a South African language, the word Sawu bona is spoken when people greet one another and when they depart. It means ‘I see you.’
“I see you.” is a form of “I accept you.” and is the first step in caring.
The post then reminds us that:
“And by acting from the ethic of care, one that starts by apprehending the reality of the other, we both model for, and invite others into, a space that allows them to experience care, and to thus grow into the humane versions of their selves that such care naturally invites.”
And that’s when the learning happens.
For many kids in our classrooms whose lives are filled with stress of poverty and more, that step of care needs to be retaken almost daily — the invitation is reopened again and again. We accept the child where s/he is; and the learning eventually comes.
Will it that be good enough for the test?
It will be more than good enough for the child who learns to trust and care and live together in the world because they can learn, “I see you and you see me.”
Teaching starts with caring. We start each class with caring — an acknowledgement of each student. A recognition throughout the period here and there. A smile. A short conference on the side. And then we can move on; we do it all, but maybe not on the timeline expected. Because our first expectation should be to care and “see.”
I see you.