Friday, November 1, 2013

The Ethic of Care: Student/Teacher Relationships

This week I found an article entitled "Caring Teachers" by Heather Davis that discusses the role the ethic of care has in education. According to Davis, research has shown that caring, supportive teachers help their students behave responsibly, take intellectual risks, and persevere in the face of failure. The research cited in this article centers on three themes: caring guiding teacher engagement, caring as a professional disposition, and caring as a quality students perceive in a relationship. First of all, Davis discusses how teachers must view their relationships with students as important. She says that to engage in caring behavior, "teachers must believe that without action their goals (either personal or instructional) might be undermined." Secondly, Davis says it is integral for educators to view caring as something they do rather than something they feel: "Caring is an ethic, or a moral value, that teachers communicate to students through their selection of curriculum, their planning of a lesson, their establishment of classroom norms, and their interactions with students." Finally, the research shows that students' perceptions of their teachers' caring relationships is important. Teachers who truly follow this "ethic of care" are able to make their students feel understood and accepted - and this translates over to their academic achievements.

According to Nel Noddings, the caring actions of teachers are just as important as larger structural conditions that influence student learning (Nieto & Bode, p. 255). Nieto and Bode also affirm Davis' findings that teachers must show students they care - through relationships with their students, high expectations, and respect for students and their families (p. 255). If educators want their students to have a "sense of belonging" (p. 256) in the classroom, they must follow through with these actions of caring. 

Although saying that teachers should be caring and demonstrate this through specific actions might sound self-explanatory or unnecessary, it's important to pay attention to this characteristic of successful education of students. Especially when teachers are working with diverse groups of students who may feel unconnected with the school and/or community, educators must be careful to respectfully care for their students in ways that help them feel connected, capable, and successful - not only in the classroom, but in respect to their diverse values, beliefs, and abilities. As a teacher, I hope to demonstrate this ethic of care through my daily actions, encouraging my students to achieve their potentials and be proud of their accomplishments and who they are as individuals. 

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