LEADPrep students are seen, heard, valued…thriving. This pedagogy of care is intentional. Pedagogy is the science of teaching. Our LEADPrep pedagogical approach includes fostering student-teacher relationships that are reciprocal, with students having voice and choice, “agency.” Students are seen and heard, with teachers demonstrating care by adapting their teaching to meet the needs of all students and building connections that forge positive relationships. This humanistic pedagogy models valuing students enough to do the hard work of personalizing learning and creating student-directed projects. With this level of care, our students thrive. A pedagogy of care is relational and includes concern for person and performance.
As Dr. Maha Bali, professor at the American University of Cairo, eloquently expresses, “Sometimes, the most valuable thing we can offer our students is genuine care for them, their well-being, their happiness. Not just their grades. Not just their learning. But their whole selves.” Dr. Bali continues by comparing the medical ethic of “doing no harm” with the educational imperative, both which often forget to look at the whole human or overall wellbeing. Is this frequent educational focus on teaching content for literacy and numeracy and not on the overall wellbeing of their students acceptable? Is doing no harm and teaching the mandated curriculum enough for our students? I don’t think so.
Dr. Monica Glina, Faculty Director at New York University, suggests that “both caring and power in the classroom should be governed by a relationship of reciprocity where all voices are actively considered and factored into the relationship…At the end of the day, the caring pedagogue acknowledges the personhood of all involved in the learning process.” Acknowledging the “personhood.” How many of our teens would say they feel seen and acknowledged by their teachers? This basic expectation is vital for the wellbeing of our youth.
These bright and aware university professors understand the need for the pedagogy of care, as do many of our schools’ elementary teachers. However, we tend to lose this humane focus in between, just when students are adolescents and most in need of understanding and support to navigate the turbulent teen years and accompanying social pressures. The results of this vacuum? Increased mental health issues, self-harm, disengaged students, dropouts, and human potential squandered instead of celebrated and fostered.
While we must address academic standards, with teachers skilled in content knowledge and teaching strategies, we cannot ignore the human needs of our students. The humanistic side of education is equally important for effective teaching and learning. As such, educators need to be reminded of the importance of demonstrating care and connectedness in their classrooms and schools. Admittedly, this is a huge challenge in our archaic assembly-line model, with teachers responsible for up to 150 students each. And it is further complicated with mandatory state testing and external demands of “rigor” and college preparation. At some point, we have to acknowledge the insanity of our present middle/high school model and be willing to rethink why and how we teach our youth.
In the World Journal of Education, teachers, especially those in middle and high school, are challenged to go back to the basics: Our “paper serves as a call to action to all educators, especially those who teach young adolescents, to find a way back to the basic principles of education. Teachers need to exhibit care by adapting their teaching to meet the needs of all students while building connections and positive student-teacher relationships at all levels of education and in all learning environments.”
LEADPrep understands this. Micro-schools and small choice schools often embody this pedagogy of care. Now we need to demand systemic change to make this basic right of being cared for available to all learners. Modeling compassion and care, and providing opportunities for students to practice these skills can lead to a kinder and more inclusive and progressive world. It sounds worth the effort, doesn’t it?