Love in a Time of Schooling

You ever have one of those days where you’re in a hurry to get out the door? Maybe you’re eager to take your son or daughter out on an amazing adventure. You’ve got zoo tickets, or there’s a baseball game, or a carnival or a new museum’s opening. And you’re tight on time, so you’ve got to get out the door? And someone can’t find their shoes?

So in your rush to get to the amazing thing you’ve got planned, what you actually have ended up communicating to your child – the person you’re doing this amazing thing for and with – is that they’re slow and forgetful and not so good at leaving the house on time? Because you’ve just got so much to do? ((I am certainly guilty of this. I suspect I’m not the only one.))

Yeah. I think we do that at school, too, both literally and figuratively. In our race to the top to make sure that we leave no child behind with our innovative instruction, we sometimes forget the children are partners in the work – not folks to be acted upon. We make them feel small. We forget to be with them, and we end up doing some pretty mean things to them.

With the best, unfortunately, of intentions.

I mention that tonight because tomorrow I’ll be facilitating a workshop I’m calling “Love in a Time of Schooling.” Here’s the description of the session:

In a time when school often feels like it is being done to our students, rather than for and with them, there is value in considering some of the emotional aspects of the learning environments we are creating for our students. In classrooms and schools, looking after each other is an essential element of good teaching and learning. In short, we need to consider love and its place in our classrooms and lessons, our infrastructures and physical spaces. In this session, we will explore different ways of thinking about care for our fellow teachers and students, as well as consider ways to love, share love, and bring love in to modern schooling.

See, I think we mean very well as we’re working to impart important knowledge to our students, but we’re losing the true reason for all that knowledge work – we care for our students, and want them to be good and thoughtful people – and we’re in such a hurry to do that right, that we forget to build relationships.

This isn’t, by the way, something that we mean to do. Or that we just do to students, but I think that it’s certainly a problem. And some of what freaks me out about the latest and greatest from our ed-tech innovators and entrepreneurs is that they believe that they can further automate and teacher-proof the learning process. When exactly what we need to be doing instead is to be caring better for our students. And you don’t care with software. Or with an assessment. You care through being in a caring relationship with your students. If you’re an administrator, you care through being in a caring relationship with your staff. You model care, you demonstrate care, you engage in dialogue that suggests you care. And you help to point out the caring you see in and from others.

And so tomorrow, that’s what I want to explore. How, in a time of intense pressures, do we help to build schools and classrooms and departments of caring while helping to instill caring in our students? Seems to me that’s worth wondering about. As I’ve been prepping for the workshop, I’ve dug deep into The Challenge to Care in Schools by Nel Noddings. If you’ve not read it, it’s worth your time. Here’s a collection of quotes, if you’d like to get the flavor of the book.

I’m not an expert at care or caring or love. But I’m a student of plenty of folks who are, and I enjoy spending time with the ideas because they help me to be a better carer. These are lessons that resonate at work, at home, and in my interactions with the world. And they’re hard lessons to learn. But so worth the time. Caring isn’t content so much as it is stance. Relationship. Frame.

One of the best things about this workshop is that we’ll be at Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, using their space as a mirror and a lens to explore how a space might be designed in a caring way. We’ll then turn our eyes to our own classrooms and organizations to consider how we promote caring relationships in our work.

I hope you’re finding ways to care and to instill love and care in your work. Would love to hear about your efforts in the comments.

30 thoughts on “Love in a Time of Schooling

  1. Alison Thielke says:

    Well, Bud, there were days, mostly in my afternoon preschool class when I just said, “I’m not following any plan today.” And I plunked down in a beanbag with my sixteen children, all of whom were at risk in one way or another, and I said to myself…the only thing I need to do today is listen to the kids, have a few conversations, laugh a little bit and read, read, read. Maybe sing a song or two. Outside. Because, really, what more did they need? I’d love to test that out. If all I did was that, would those kids still be as “ready” for kindergarten as any other preschooler?

  2. What a great topic and I hope it resonated with the audience. We lose this aspect of our lives as teachers, sometimes (hopefully, it never leaves completely), in this data-drenched world where kids and tests become numbers, and not … kids. And too many students come from homes where love isn’t always the priority, right? School is the one place they can turn for caring.

  3. Kathleen says:

    How many times did I do this as a parent? It’s such an easy trap to fall into. I am a relatively new teacher and recently finished 11 weeks of long-term subbing in middle school. When I finally started to get my head above water and relaxed a little bit, the message I articulated (first) and then began to live was that I can only plan the progression of study and present the material. The students need to take charge of their own education by asking questions, trying the work and letting me know what they still needed to be successful, and by being honest with themselves as well as with me. When I finally did this, rather than push endless tasks of “must-do” in front of them, they started to relax — and they started to learn. Thank you for this post.

  4. midge says:

    Bud, do you offer all day workshops focusing around writing and assessment? We work with twenty districts across the year around a shared focus. Districts send literacy leadership teams of four who attend 7-8 all days sessions from Sept to May. Work is collaborative and framed around needs and interests of districts.

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