The second session I was involved with involved significant less planning — but also somewhat more heart — than Standards Based Grading and Reporting.
Lehmann, Pia and I — and Mark Bey, and alumnus Mike Dea, and a smattering of SLA freshmen who all chose to be in the room just because — took folks on a meandering but meaningful tour through how care works in our building, and how we “care for” instead of just “caring about.”
Here are the prompts we used for the discussion:
- What is the difference between care about and care for?
- How can you (help teachers) make that transformation?
- What are the challenges of this switch?
- What are the tensions between caring for the adults and the children in the building?
- How do you schedule care?
- How can care be built into every structure and system that you have?
Here are a few general reflections from the session:
This process is not easy, and it’s never finished. SLA Spanish teacher Mark Bey talked about how his understanding of caring for students changed and expanded when he started working at the school — and now he tells his new advisory families that he is that child’s unconditional advocate in the building. They know that there is at least one person in the building who has their child’s best interests in mind.
Contact is key — and for us that includes Facebook, text messages, and hand-written journals passed back and forth, and random visits from graduates.
These procedures need space and time. We have advisory twice a week for 40 minutes, and advisory families stay together from freshman through senior year. We also have weekly planning time for all staff, which we sometimes use to conference in advisory groups, so teachers can plan curriculum, discuss upcoming events, etc.
That said — the shift to caring for can happen in small ways, without having your whole staff on board, and without a major shift in the schedule of the day. Three questions that Lehmann mentioned were key to treating students with care: What do you think? What do you need? And, when kids are in trouble, or upset, or in any kind of difficult situation: What do you need to say now?
We talked about situations where we have sat with a student and waited, patiently, without prodding, to hear what a student had to say about their life and their issues. Sometimes, proverbially speaking, we wait years. Sometimes they don’t even open up or figure things out before graduation. But we have some faith that part of the value is not in the immediate payoff (especially if there is none.) Sometimes, we get a glimpse of a delayed deposit for a student who comes back a few years later and has got it all under control and just wants to say thanks.
If you’re looking for more resources on how to integrate the ethic of care into your regular curriculum, check out my series on how to do test prep with heart.