Technically this was not a previous post, but a transcription of a speech I gave as the keynote speaker on day 3 as a co-host of the Stepping Into CI summer workshop in 2020, but I think it still counts as a Throwback Thursday post.
When I first coined the term “Caring,” for CI it was a pithy way to encompass everything left over after you explain “Comprehensible” and “Compelling.” How do you describe keeping student anxiety low, making students feel valued and heard? How do you describe building relationships and trust?
After I added the third “C,” it took on a life of its own in our department [see this post by Keith Toda] and forced us, as a group, to look at ourselves and our practices and always question: “did that lesson show Caring?”
Caring has become my favorite “C.”
Caring is why I became a teacher. “I want to be the teacher that shows each student that someone cares.” I think that was literally part of the teaching philosophy I had to write in my one and only education course.
The way I show I care has morphed over the years. It has grown.
It started with seeking out students in special education and making sure they have what they need in my class. With learning that a typical class structure, which I thrive in, can be actively harmful to some students. With taking my students as they are, as they choose to be, and calling them by the names that they asked me to call them. With listening. With respect. With care.
Over the years, caring has become more. It has become educating myself. Learning how the brain learns and incorporating that into my classes. Researching about the effects of socio-economic factors, racism, sexism, ableism, and homophobia in my classroom so I can learn to watch for it and do my best to fight it. Learning to battle uncomfortable topics head-on because I can’t dodge the reality of slavery in Rome by calling slaves “servants,” and doing so does my students, all of my students, a disservice.
Caring has made me look at my lesson plans and see the gaps. I had worked to make personal connections with my students and make them feel seen by me (because I see them) and loved by me (because I love them), but I had never thought to examine the materials I offered them to see if they could see themselves there. They couldn’t.
That’s a gap.
It’s a gap I’m still mending.
Caring is evaluating everything I do to make sure that it’s in the best interests of my students, not just what I’ve always done, not just what I’m comfortable with, not just part of the canon.
Caring is making myself uncomfortable so I can make my students comfortable.
Because when students are comfortable, when students feel seen and heard, when they see themselves in what we do, that is when they learn best. They learn they are worthwhile. They learn they are worthy.
And then you can teach.
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Rachel Ash is a teacher, author, seamstress, mother, wife, and overdescriber. She also loves a good list.