As teachers we take classes and contemplate what it means to care for our students. We learn techniques, skills and methods that have been proven to be successful. To be genuine is to actually possess the alleged or apparent attribute or character. I say we start by building our character with sincerity as the base. All of the teachers that I have loved and learned from throughout my education were people who possessed this attribute. They didn’t have to learn how to show me they cared. They already did and even as an eleven year old, innocent child, I knew. Does this mean that all the training and schooling education majors do is useless and of no importance? It does not. However, I want to stress the importance of building upon our own sincerity if we are going to truly care for our students.
Savoun Nouch, a senior from Providence Rhode Island, expressed feelings of gratitude towards a teacher who showed him that she really cared. He explains his experience by saying, “The way she was, the way she treated us, the way she made that connection—it made me work. She would contact me, out of school, to see what I was doing. We would have conversations, like friend to friend. That made us bonded very well and then I opened up. To improve schools, if they change the system, the way they teach, that would be [a] great idea, but even if they can’t change the system, have a good relationship with the students and be in contact with them, always be in contact with them. Call them up” (Nieto, 331, 2012.) Savoun description is a perfect example of what it really means to care. It was “the way she was,” that helped Savoun to succeed and have a positive experience in her classroom. Savoun mentions that teachers should call their students and to be in contact with them. There are many simple things that teachers can do to show their students they care.
It doesn’t take much effort to call a student or parent and begin building a relationship with them. Doing this will allow you to work together as a team, all working towards the same goal, the success of the student. Building relationships with parents is crucial to effective teaching. Having potlucks, sending home notes or cards, inviting parent volunteers into the classroom are all ways that we can encourage parent involvement in our classrooms.
I can recall the moments of my education that have truly impacted who I am today. Teachers who cared about me have been a big influence in my decision to become an elementary school teacher. One teacher in particular always believed in my ability to accomplish any goal I set for myself. Her high expectations were apparent and like Savoun I was willing to work harder. I still correspond with this teacher and there are not words to express how much that friendship means to me. Linda Howard a high school graduate from Boston Massachusetts shares an experience similar to my own. She says, “My first-grade teacher and I are very close. She’s always been there for me. After the first or second grade, if I had a problem, I could always go back to her. Through the whole rest of my life, I’ve been able to go back and talk to her….It’s just a feeling you have. You know that they really care for you. You just know it; you can tell” (Nieto, 89, 2012.)
Once again we are presented with proof that our students will know if we truly do care for them. In Sonia Nieto’s book “Affirming Diversity,” she mentions research done by Nel Noddings who also recognized the importance of “the ethic of care.” “Her research is corroborated by a nationwide survey of several hundred 13- to 17-year old students who were asked whether they work harder for some teachers than for others. Three out of four said yes, and they explained the reason was because these were the teachers who cared the most for them. The survey authors concluded that effective schooling relies almost entirely on creative and passionate teachers” (Nieto, 255, 2012.)
There is not one way to care for all of the students that we will have in our classrooms. Each individual will require different needs to be met and as the teacher it is our responsibility to recognize what those needs are. Some of the students we encounter will struggle with discrimination based on race, ethnicity, culture, sexual orientation or economic status. There are five distinct themes investigated by Ruben Garza that deserve mentioning. These are strategies used by teachers that students recognized and appreciated. “ Teachers (1) provided scaffolding during a teaching episode, (2) reflected a kind of disposition through actions, (3) were always available to the student, (4) showed a personal interest in the students’ well-being inside and outside the classroom, and (5) provided affective academic support in the classroom setting” (Nieto, 256, 2012.)
All of these simple strategies, if implemented, can help us to be the teachers we are all striving to become. Recognizing each students’ potential and taking the time to show we care will provide an environment where our students will exceed our high expectations and we will build relationships that will last a lifetime. Our students will appreciate our friendship and in return will bless our lives. As important as curriculum is in the teaching profession all teachers must accept the reality that their job is more important than two plus two equaling four. Building off of our genuine love for the students will help us to change more lives than having our students complete the most worksheets than any other class. It’s time to dedicate our careers to loving and caring for our students and to never give up the hope that we are making a change.
-Nieto, Sonia. (2012). Affirming Diversity: The Socio-political Context of Multicultural Education, 6th edition. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.