Web Presentation - Ethics of Care

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





Sara Aref juillet 12, 2019, 13:08

Commentary Hi Lauren, You raised a lot of interesting points in your web-based presentation on Noddings’ ethics of care. I would like to start by tackling some of the questions you raised about the definition of care. What does it mean to care? As mentioned in the presentation, Noddings did not provide a precise definition of caring because “Cultural and personal differences will result in different manifestations of care” (Noddings, 2016, p. 227). However, Noddings considered a relationship to be of a caring nature only when the cared-for acknowledges the care. The problem with this caring model is that it’s a unidirectional one, meaning the caring is not reciprocal between the people involved in the relation. (Hoagland, 1990). This lack of reciprocity could result in a “diminished caring relationship” (Hoagland, 1990, p.110). I think such a non-reciprocal care model would be acceptable within a parent/child relationship dynamic or a teacher/ student model. However, Noddings’ one-caring/unidirectional model is not suitable for adult relationships because it’s non-reciprocal in nature (Davion, 1993). This brings us to the question of whether Nodding’s ethics of care model is contributing to the exploitation of women? I think that an adult relationship that is not based on reciprocity can lead to exploitative conditions. However, Noddings (2016) counterargued that idea when she said that a woman always has the choice to leave an abusive relationship. For Noddings, putting an end to an exploitative relationship is acceptable within the ethics of care framework because it will allow the person to become a better carer in future relationships (Noddings, 2016). However, the problem with this argument is that it neglects a person’s need for selfcare and sense of autonomy (Hoagland, 1990). Caring for oneself is as morally important as caring for others. This is why I think that a caring person needs to know how to set some relational boundaries to avoid self-sacrifice. A caregiver should prioritize their own well-being over others’ so that they can maintain their own physical and mental health before deciding on extending their care to people around them. The other problematic aspect of Noddings’ ethics of care model is that it goes against some basic feminist principles such as self-agency and autonomy. This is because within Noddings’ care model, a person can receive care only by becoming cared-for themselves (Noddings, 2016, p.228). As noted by Hoagland (1990), such an interdependent relational dynamic is not “significantly different from the situation of exploitation” (p.110). In an educational setting, I think that teaching morals from an ethics of care model will help both girls and boys become better carers and cared-for. This is because they will get a chance to see it modeled by their teachers and classmates. I think that the reason why most of the focus has been put on the role of teachers in supporting their students’ moral development is because of the nature of their relationship. Like a parent/child relationship, a teacher/student relationship model is a unidirectional one. In most cases, the teacher is the carer and the student is the cared-for. I think teachers need to learn how to care for themselves in order to avoid compassion fatigue and burn out. A teacher’s self-care should be part of their ethics of care model. Setting professional boundaries and learning how to say no to avoid compassion fatigue is morally acceptable because otherwise everyone will lose when their compassionate teacher burns out from compassion fatigue. References Davion, V. (1993). Autonomy, Integrity, and Care. *Social Theory and Practice*, 19(2), 161-182. Hoagland, S. (1990). Some Concerns About Nel Noddings’ Caring. *Hypatia*, 5(1), 109-114. Noddings, N. (2016). Feminism, Philosophy, and Education. *Philosophy of Education*. pp. 217-238. (4th edition). New York, NY: Routledge.

Jeff Dowling juillet 14, 2019, 07:03

Hello Lauren, Ethics is such a foundational principle to determine how well or not a society functions. While reading about the ethic of care, I, like Noddings, do see “its earliest evolutionary roots in maternal instinct”, but realize it encompasses much more. Noddings also mentions Carol Gilligan, who I find takes an essentialist stance by linking the ethic of care to a unique feature in femininity. The reason this may be important is that if women are more likely to put greater emphasis on caring for others through kin work and on average score higher on the personality trait of neuroticism and make up the majority of teachers, then they are likely to be more susceptible to compassion fatigue and require different interventions to remedy the situation than male teachers. Although Noddings called any difference between the sexes a distraction, I think it is important to consider if an ethic of care is generating adverse consequences, such as compassion fatigue. Having said that, I believe people who are compassionate and put value on relationships will self-select to become teachers in the first place, so it definitely will affect the profession at large. Noddings also goes on to ask, “whether an ethic of care can lead us to a less violent, more caring way of life.” Now if an ethic of care can be said to have begun in schools in the mid-20th century, judging by the increase in violence, not to mention youth suicide and drug use , then perhaps there is something amiss within an ethic of care. Let me provide a tragic example, The Parkland shooting that occurred in Florida occurred in a climate where administrators where reluctant to report students to police in an attempt to stem the ‘school-to-prison pipeline’. Politically it was seen as a success, fewer students were entering the criminal justice system, but in reality troubled students who posed a threat were not effectively dealt with. As a result shooter Nikolas Cruz, despite being reported to school administrators numerous times, was not reported to police. Like clockwork, the media went on to blame guns, all but ignoring the school policies that enabled the event to occur in the first place. (Source: https://www.nationalreview.com/2018/03/parkland-shooting-school-discipline-policies-limited-law-enforcement-involvement-with-students/) Thus is there an inherent flaw in the practice of an ethic of care that is too lenient and doesn’t effectively deal with punishment in necessary situations? In addition, to me it seems like, despite its best intentions, an ethic of care can go too far to the point where the cared-for become infantilized, since it is the modus operandi of infants to use some form of violence or the threat of violence when they don’t get what they want. Morally we don’t judge them to be responsible, but we shouldn't enable such behavior further. I think then that an ethic of care has resulted in the rise of helicopter parenting that extends childhood indefinitely and leaves teachers on the hook for managing a classroom of children who require much more than previous generations. As a result, it seems to be taking a toll on teachers. As such, teachers with the support of administrators need to take the lead in configuring an ethic of care that has limits, is responsive to the needs of the carer (teacher) and doesn’t merely mimic maternal instinct, but has as its end goal the independence of the student to self-regulate and enter into mutually responsive relations with others. If we want to raise children into adults, we need to treat them as such eventually, and so I question whether an ethic of care is able to live up this goal.

Kelly Milliken juillet 15, 2019, 07:03
Replying to Jeff Dowling

Hi Jeff, I wanted to respond to one aspect of your post. I do not know all the details of how administration dealt with concerns regarding the student who ended up committing the Parkland shootings but I would say that failure to report a student to the police is not necessarily an act of ethics of care. If administration did not report concerns because of the political climate and wanting to make statistics look positive, I would say that this is not due to ethics of care; this is more for preservation of appearances. I would say that if there is a troubled student, showing care would be finding resources to support the student and part of this may be reporting to the police.

Kelly Milliken juillet 15, 2019, 00:25

Hi Lauren, I enjoyed reading your post. I wanted to respond to the questions you posed at the end of your presentation regarding teacher self-care. I currently work at a school for students with severe emotional and behavioural exceptionalities. At the end of the day, we debrief as a teaching team about our day. I think this goes a long way in towards self-care. We are able to work through the ups and downs of the day together which allows you to leave the school in a positive space. I do think that a huge part of teacher self-care is having an administration that puts an emphasis on it and encourages it.

Zuri Lewkowicz-Lalonde juillet 17, 2019, 00:25
Replying to Kelly Milliken

Hi Kelly, I really like the points you bring up in your experience. I feel like teaching can sometimes feel like an isolating experience and tapping into self-care is important. I really like the idea of having debriefs at the end of the day, because being able to talk about problems with your coworkers and people who understand, is so crucial to moving forward. As you said, talking about both the ups and downs in a healthy and constructive manner allows for everyone to leave the school with their minds clear and not obsessing over things well into the night. Finally I totally agree that the administration has to get behind it and encourage this type of atmosphere and provide the tools for teachers to learn and practice self-care.

Rema Simona Rodrigues juillet 15, 2019, 12:33

Hello Lauren, I really enjoyed your post and the commentary on teacher self-care. In my school board this has become a very important concern among administration and teachers. I work in behavioural schools, that also incorporates several students with exceptionalities. The work environment can be overwhelming at times, but our school works closely with administrators and outside community resources to ensure that teachers receive the necessary support for their mental health and well-being. Our school board offers many PD sessions on mental health and well-being awareness, which is incorporated into the schools I work at. The principal will ensure that teachers are able to take time for themselves. In addition to this, the principal always walks around the school, classroom to classroom to check-in on teachers, support them as needed. What makes a huge different in a high needs school, is communication and teamwork. Everyone checks in with each other, greets and encourages each other to give it their best daily. I walk into my schools, knowing that I have support when days can seem tough. When administrators and teachers think alike in this matter, it makes a huge different, and teachers see self-care as an important aspect of their lives. It is easy to get carried away with the busyness of work and forget about ourselves. This is also often how burn outs happen, and stress leaves take place. When teachers take care of themselves, they are able to as you mentioned, “…show students what it is to care for someone, …talk about what it is to care…[so that] students [can] then practice showing care, for example, through community service and finally confirming that what they have done is a good thing (Noddings, 2016). If we want to be good role models for our students, we need to make sure we are taking care of our own needs, so we can provide them with the best version of ourselves. Rema

Cheyenne Labelle juillet 16, 2019, 21:26

Hi, Lauren! Your web-based presentation does a great job at summarizing the big ideas presented in Noddings’ Chapter 12 on Feminism, Philosophy, and Education and relating these to your own experiences in practice. As stated in the required reading and as you highlighted, “[moral] education from the care perspective has four major components: modeling, dialogue, practice, and confirmation” (p. 230). In relation to your question about how to better support teachers who take it upon themselves to care so much that it becomes detrimental to their well-being, I would like to highlight Noddings’ definition of “dialogue” within the framework of an ethic of care. The author states that, “As dialogue unfolds, we participate in a mutual construction of the frame of reference, but this is always a sensitive task that involves total receptivity, reflection, invitation, assessment, revision, and further exploration” (p. 231). Dialogue is a necessary component in care ethics because this process supports mutual understanding between subjects. From this perspective, keeping an open and genuine line of communication between oneself and his/her students, colleagues, and other stakeholders in the educational community is integral in establishing guidelines for respect and dignity between all parties. I think that teachers need to be better encouraged to communicate what they feel they need as recipients of care in order to provide them relief from the stress of the classroom. Likewise, students need to be shown what it means to be carers and cared-for through effective modeling of these processes and they should also be considered active participants in the ethics of care in a school community through open dialogue about what it means to care. As Jeff mentions, the modus operandi of infants is to use violence when they do not get what they want and we do not judge them as responsible. think that this reaction stems from a child’s inability to logically express what he/she actually wants at that very moment so it manifests itself physically and emotionally through violence and rage. In order to foster emotional intelligence and emotional processing in our students, we must show them how to communicate their thoughts and feelings effectively by showing them how we do so when we are feeling overwhelmed and overworked. Again, I thank you for your thoughts and contributions to this week’s learning! Your post has given me much food for thought.

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