I care about students. Really?

My college’s operational motto is “Challenge and Care”. While the measure of the former can be achieved by learning outcomes and their corresponding evaluations, the measure of the latter is a little trickier.

Here’s the answer of an experienced teacher:

When you care at a personal and individual level, you ask one question: How can I empower a student so that she or he isn’t paralyzed in fear, doesn’t feel defeated and isolated and lonely, isn’t weakened by powerlessness, isn’t dominated by pessimism and self-doubt, doesn’t feel passive and helpless, isn’t saddened by hopelessness, doesn’t feel unnoticed and devalued?

The most effective answer lies in the context of an on-going, warm, upbeat, respectful, responsive, empathetic, and trusting relationship with each student. Most a student’s ills can be cured with large doses of engaged, close, and non-punitive caring. We have to act within specific situations with specific persons; we have to learn the specifics of those people and those situations; and we have to respond to the details of that person and her or his situation.

Each student is a particular human being with different needs, different problems, and different stories. Because each story is different, caring may require something different for one from caring for another. So, part of caring is being attentive, for it is within the personal context that we must care and educate.

We must first see and listen to each student if we are to help her or him to help herself or himself. In caring education, there is no substitute for seeing, listening, recognizing the needs of each student. That means attention, attention, attention must be paid to each student.

Paying attention to each student, listening to each student’s story, letting have her or his voice, establishing her or his identity, maintaining her or his integrity, taking the human experience as seriously as we do transmitting information. In many instances, as in journaling, we have to practice a silent presence.

We have to learn how to see, learn how to listen, how to be empathetic, and how to be patient. Otherwise, all these generalizations, these “I believe,” these “in my opinion” are simply our own stories, our own perceptions, our own descriptions of a student whom we do not know, have not heard, have not seen, and certainly have not positively touched–and probably rarely exists.

For more, see the whole post on Louie Schmier’s blog