It is end-of-June: one would think summer and holidays would be on this teacher's mind. Instead, I have been reflecting and writing about my teaching practice, in anticipation for another school year this coming fall, mulling over my personal philosophy about care and how it underlies everything I do in the classroom.
Interestingly, there is push-back to this belief of mine -- that care is absolutely the most necessary attribute for a teacher. There is a sentiment that equates "caring" with being soft, easy and somewhat spineless. A belief that holds care to be the easy option. We might think that if you care, you must be weak; if you care, you must be indulgent. But why do we assume this?
Recently, the viral blog I wrote (What Students Remember Most About Teachers) was cited in a publication about the 12 things students remember most about good teachers. Not surprisingly, there is scientific proof that caring matters, as referenced in this article by writer Saga Briggs. But what has interested me even more than the positive response has been the critique of the premise that I hold that caring matters most.
Those who care will never take the easy road: in fact, they will have chosen the road less taken.
In fact, sometimes the message I hear from detractors is that, in order to be a caring individual or educator, your focus will not be on academics. So that, if you choose to be a caring individual, your focus will not be on discipline and progress. If you choose to be a caring teacher, your focus will not be on achievement and excellence. If you choose to be a caring teacher, you will probably let everything unravel at the seams, enabling free love to take over and rule the day.
The assumption is that growth and development of mind and body are pre-empted by caring, which is essentially just an "anything goes" mantra.
This is the furthest thing from the truth: caring is sometimes the most elusive quality a person can aspire to. Those who care will never take the easy road: in fact, they will have chosen the road less taken.
Caring is not for the faint-hearted.
For if I care about you, I will challenge you. I will attempt to broaden your horizons and stretch your thinking.
If I care about you, I will insist that you live up to your best. I will urge you to do nothing less than what you and I both believe is your own personal best standard.
If I care about you, I will implore you to be kind, to be gentle and to be humble: because these are the greatest strengths an individual can aspire to.
If I care about you, I will encourage you to desire and aim for great things. I will ask you to believe that much is possible. I will assert that the ability to achieve lies within your grasp.
If I care about you, I will advocate for you, support you, believe in you, cheer you on, mentor you, coach you, persuade you and endorse you.
These are not soft, easy, indulgent actions. They are what will rather challenge and dare us to live greatly.
Caring is not the easy option: it is one of the hardest ones. But conversely, it is an option with some of the greatest gains -- both for students and teachers and for everyone, really.
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