This is an extension of some thinking I was doing in this entry -- Citizenship, Workforce and the Ethic of Care.
Nel Noddings writes a great deal about the ethic of care -- the idea that our relationships with students should be grounded in "receptivity, relatedness, and responsiveness" -- and her work has been important to me in thinking about my relationship with students and in the way we try to craft relationships at SLA.
The sad thing, of course, is that there are many, many caring adults in schools, yet students do not feel cared for. We have to ask ourselves why this is... the vast majority of teachers went into teaching because they care about kids, because they want to be positive influences in the lives of children, and yet -- especially in our high schools -- it doesn't seem to happen. And, of course, for many of our at risk students, when they don't feel cared for, they drop out.
So what causes the disconnect? Why do adults care and yet students don't feel cared for?
That question begs us to examine the structures and systems -- both philosophical and procedural -- that make up our schools and are, seemingly, getting in the way of caring relationships between students and teachers.
So then, some thoughts...
- School Level: We need to create space for adults and students to come together around their shared humanity, not around a subject to be taught. For us, that's Advisory, but that can take many forms. Noddings suggests the idea that students and teachers could take meals together, for example. Just that one change could create upheaval in the way many traditional schools look at their structures.
- Societal Level: We need to create policies that encourage teachers and students to look at each other with humanity -- and that means finding ways to look at all of a students' work, not just a test score. Again, this could look at a school accreditation program similar to Middle States where the entire school is assessed.
- Semantic Level: We need to stop talking about what schools "create," schools don't create the "21st Century Workforce." Doing that encourages us to think about our students as objects -- that education is something that is done to them. We need to change our language so that even the very way we talk about education breaks down that barrier between school and student... between subject and object.
I really think this is one of the major problems we have in schools today -- they don't feel like very caring institutions, and that needs to change at a very foundational level. We need to better leverage the enormous good will that most teachers enter the profession. We need to remember that teachers come into the profession to make children's lives better.
The good news is that despite every structural impediment there is -- and it's damned near complete these days -- students and teachers keep finding ways to connect as real people all over our country. We just need to change the system to make it a little easier, that's all.