In chapter 12 Noodings (2016) takes a deeper look into feminist ethics, more specifically an ethic of care. She maintains that everyone at some point in their life has been cared for and generally spontaneously shows care for others, which she calls ‘natural’ care. She also refers to ‘ethical’ caring, which is when we need to make a conscious decision that showing care for someone is the right this to do. Kant described the differences “between the acts we do spontaneously out of love and those we do from duty” (pg. 226) describing care from duty is superior to that of love.
Noddings explains that showing care to someone is not as simple as it may seem. For example, what does it mean to care for someone? Person and cultural differences can make caring for someone different in their eyes. If the person showing care does something that the receiver does not find helpful, but detrimental, then did that person show care?
Some feminists are worried that the ethics of caring might be a contributing factor to women being exploited (Noodings, 2016) “Barbara Houston and Sarah Hoagland argue that stress on the maintenance of caring relationships can lead carers to neglect their own welfare and, worse, to blame themselves for the shortcomings of those for whom they try to care” (Noodings, 2016, pg. 217). Noodings has a few reasons for which this can not be the case. First, the person showing care can always step away if it is affecting them too much and can also become someone who is cared for. Also, the ethics of caring is not limited to women, while it may be a part of a women’s experience it is not only for women. Finally, men and women need to experience both being cared for and being careers to develop an ethic of care.
Moral education from the care perspective has four major components: modeling, dialogue, practice, and confirmation. First teachers need to show students what it is to care for someone, we need to talk about what it is to care. Students must then practice showing care, for example, through community service and finally confirming that what they have done is a good thing (Noodings, 2016).
“The ethic of care rejects the notion of a truly autonomous moral agent and accepts the reality of moral interdependence. Our goodness and our growth are inextricably bound to that of others we encounter. As teachers, we are as dependent on our students as they are on us” (Noodings, 2016, pg. 237).
Noodings chapter on the ethics of care, and a lot of research, is focused on teachers supporting students in their moral education development. While this is imperative, I believe there is a big piece missing from this, the importance of teacher care. How do teachers get the emotional support and care they need to be able to do their jobs?
Having now completed this teaching school year in my most challenging class to date, I have been doing some reflection on my year, additional reading and research related to this topic. While reading this chapter I immediately thought of recent articles written about violence in Ontario classrooms. Ontario’s elementary classrooms are experiencing more violence, not just verbal abuse and crying, but physical violence, like the throwing of objects in a classroom. The provinces ability to give students with special needs support is not enough. Teachers who identify a student in Kindergarten may have to wait up to 3 years to have assessments completed (Wagner, 2017).
The Elementary Teachers of Toronto believe that while they received violent incidence reports from the first day of school to the last, they don’t think all teachers reported every classroom event. From verbal abuse, physical abuse and threats (Elementary Teachers of Toronto, 2018). Dr. Jody Carrington spoke to teachers who have been teaching for more then 20 years to hear their teaching experiences. While they had taught difficult students throughout their careers, they have noticed and increase of students with additional needs. Where they might have 1 student every year, they now have numerous every year who require additional support (Carrington, 2019).
This had me thinking about not only teacher burnout due to the numerous responsibilities’ teachers have, but the effect on teachers in dealing with abuse in the classroom either aimed at them or other students. Houston and Hoagland mention the stress that can develop from a broken caring relationship causing the carer to blame themselves and not take care of themselves (Noodings, 2016). Some people might say teachers have so much time off, they can get a lot of rest or think it must be fun to play games all day with kids, or teachers are in a union and make good money so they are fairly compensated for what they have to deal with. But events happening in the classroom like mentioned above, need more then a good day of rest or a spa day.
Koenig, Rodger and Specht (2018) looked to see if they could find a relationship between teachers and compassion fatigue (CF). “CF can occur after one encounter and describes the natural emotional and behavioral reactions stemming from exposure to someone close who is experiencing a traumatic event, combined with the stress caused by the desire to help the traumatized individual” (pg. 262). Koenig et al. (2018) mention that teachers are dealing with kids who may have endured traumatic experiences in their home lives or at school, thus teachers are having secondary exposure to these events. CF can cause symptoms similar to PTSD like: “re-experiencing the trauma through dreams, recollections, and/or flashbacks; avoiding or numbing reminders of the trauma through detachment from others, psychogenic amnesia, and diminished affect; and heightened/persistent arousal evident by difficulty sleeping, becoming irritable, or being hypervigilant” (pg. 262 ). They found that more then half of teachers in their pilot study sample feel stress from not being able to keep all students safe, having great empathy and feelings of responsibility. While not much research has been done on CF in teachers as research on CF is more focused on first responders, Koenig et al. did find some teachers in their sample showing signs of CF and greatly urge more research in this area.
This takes us back to Houston and Hoagland’s idea that carers will neglect their own wellbeing when there is stress on their relationships. Teachers are so invested in their classrooms and develop meaningful bonds with their students, it is not easy to step back as Nodding says when it is too much. How do we (teachers, administrators, society) ensure that teachers are receiving proper support in classrooms today. How do we ensure teachers with difficult behaviours in their classroom have proper supports in place to support other students and are also being cared for?
Carrington, J. (2019). Kids These Days. Alberta.
Elementary Teachers of Toronto. Violence in Schools. (2018, July 28). Retrieved July 9, 2019, from https://ett.ca/key-issues/violence-in-schools/
Koenig, A., Rodger, S., & Specht, J. (2018). Educator Burnout and Compassion Fatigue: A Pilot Study. Canadian Journal of School Psychology, 33(4), 259-278. doi:10.1177/0829573516685017
Noddings, N. (2016). Philosophy of Education, 4th Edition, Taylor and Francis Group.
Wagner, J. (2017, January 18). Violence in the classroom on the rise locally and provincially. CTV News Kitchener. Retrieved July 9, 2019, from https://kitchener.ctvnews.ca/violence-in-the-classroom-on-the-rise-locally-and-provincially-1.3247468