Educational Excellence and Ethics of Care
In the previous post we saw how the Ethics of Care provide a philosophy of values that contributes to heal our Humanity. Now we will focus on how it affects Educational Excellence, because in order to learn how to care, it is not only necessary to live the experience of caring, but also to feel cared for. What I mean is the school cannot train for care, if it doesn’t provide spaces for students and teachers to care for themselves, as well as in relation to the other members of the educational community.
What kind of caring relationships do we need in training citizens who can care competently?
The most important goal of the school should be for students to feel loved and cared for in their needs. These needs are inherent to the integral development of the person; that is, educational, spiritual, emotional, social, and individual. Thus, in addition to improving the learning processes, they will be able to become people who take care for others; who will be able to develop both their intellectual and emotional capacities.
Educational Excellence is closely related to the above, as an excellent professional does not settle for mediocrity, but aspires to excellence, looking for opportunities of growth. In this case, the educational excellence contributes to the development of both academic and emotional learning, as well as academic and emotional teaching. In fact, the teaching profession is characterized by being an activity in which teachers have the responsibility to facilitate the development of their students in all dimensions of their personality. For this reason, the commitment to establish and maintain relationships of trust and care is fundamental.
This type of relationship of mutual trust, allows teachers to know their students and propose educational interventions based on their interests and needs. The teacher may ask some questions to design this intervention:
- How can I use my subject to serve the needs of each of my students?
- How can I help them in promoting their intelligence, both academically and emotionally?
- What can I do to get connected with the majority of my students?
- How can I contribute to their understanding of the importance of caring for themselves, for other human beings, and for their environment?
In today’s schools, there is so much concern to achieve curricular objectives that it is easy to forget the issues that students are really concerned about, which are related to the authentic meaning of education: giving and receiving care, with the consequent increase of well-being.
For this reason, teachers, in addition to instructing in academic knowledge, must develop interpersonal relationships that enrich everyone with new ways of interpreting reality; with new values and attitudes, and with quality in the behaviors and relationships that are established among all members of the educational community.
The Role of Teachers
From this approach to education, teachers should broaden their competencies and recycle themselves into topics for which we all know they are unprepared, because their university degrees have many shortcomings.
One of the problems we encounter is the lack of motivation and social recognition of teachers. This reality contributes to too many teachers suffering from a burnout symptom. No matter what they do, students do not value their efforts, nor perceive them as care giving actions. In fact our research confirms that students do not trust their teachers. If we start from a lack of confidence, how can we establish relationships of care?.
On the other hand, the educational community is too preoccupied with the fulfillment of the curricular objectives. Likewise, opportunities to create the necessary feedback to reinforce teachers’ attitudes and activities are not created. In this way, the system freezes any progress or innovation.
The Role of Students
In addition to the teaching staff and the educational organization, students also have an important role in promoting care as a human value. Although the students are in this case recipients of care, they also have a responsibility in this relationship. In particular, they should care and treat the teaching staff from the respect and trust they devote their work to the integral development of the students. In this way relationships are developed based on esteem, and from the total willingness to help and foster “convivencia” (living together in harmony).
If we think outside of the limited curricular design, in a school we have many opportunities to educate and to create collective consciousness looking for the common good. I’m referring to the opportunity to include activities in relation to the functions developed by all the people working in the school. Of course with teachers, but also with maintenance, cleaning, cooking, administration, security, gardening (we already talked about the importance of nature in the previous post) etc. With this type of activities, in addition to educating, students develop their perception of belonging to the school, they connect with everything and everybody they “live-with”. Thus they develop empathy, responsibility, and ultimately caring for the people and for the environment.
From this approach, students and teachers will be able to recognize the collaboration of all is necessary for the development of the most elementary tasks. This seed can start in the classroom, and grow to identify all of humanity as the people around us, and the planet as the environment in which we live. It is therefore a perfect approach to develop “predictive attitudes and preventive cultures against violence, towards a global humanized citizenship”.
Author: Dr. Gonzalo Torquemada