When you get down to the elemental level with teachers, students, parents and administrators about what really works in schools, it almost always gets to this: students work more and more effectively if they believe the teacher cares about them.
Anybody can care. It doesn’t take the teacher with the most training, the one with the most years of experience, or the one who knows her content the best to care. That’s the most amazing part about this– the most important thing for student learning is available in a renewable way and accessible for anyone, anywhere!
If that’s true, that we know what works and anyone can do it, why doesn’t everyone do it?
First, caring is hard. Caring makes you vulnerable and we don’t care much for that. Caring is going to cost you money and tears at some time, so you have to know up front that they’re coming, no matter how hard you may try. On some teams, and even in some faculties, if you want to be caring you may be on a limb alone. While it’s a tough thing to do in a group, it’s really hard to do alone.
Caring takes a lot of work. It’s not just being nice. You know people who are or seem nice whose students aren’t sure that they care about them. That is a big part as well, and another reason that it takes work: it’s not just enough to care. It only has its greatest potential when the students know that you care. Caring requires sacrifice. It means that you are doing a lot of work behind the scenes and on your own time to be ready for the students when you’re with them. It means that you care enough about your students that you will be a consistent part of their lives, and consistency is tough on a daily basis! (Pun intended)
Finally, caring is easily misunderstood. Caring for students doesn’t mean that you make things easier for them. It’s more often the opposite. One of the biggest ways we show students that we care is that we care enough to not let them off with low expectations. For some of our students, they don’t have anyone else who will keep believing in them when things get tough. When you become that person who believes when no one else does, who pushes when everyone else has given up, and who gives a boost when no one else is around to do it, you have demonstrated what caring looks like.
In my experience I’ve found that students will do what seems to be impossible if they think someone cares. This is why we all got into teaching to begin with, to make a difference. Don’t be afraid to make a difference.
The focus of work in our Principal and Assistant Principal Academies during January 2017 has been on standard five of the Professional Standards for Educational Leaders, listed below. Today’s Leadership365 is dedicated to the topic to support that learning.
You can see the Professional Standards for Educational Leaders in entirety here: (http://www.ccsso.org/Documents/2015/ProfessionalStandardsforEducationalLeaders2015forNPBEAFINAL.pdf)