Friday Two Cents: Start The Ripples Of Caring


‘From caring comes courage.’ Lao Tzu

  This week I had the privilege to work with several classes, all with wonderful students. Yet there were a couple of classrooms where a minority of students constantly keep me on my toes. This was not the first time I have worked with these students and sadly I have seen their type of behaviour in different schools as well. The behaviour I am talking about is caring for others or to be more specific, a lack of caring about others. Their behaviour towards being first in line, that their needs supersedes that of others, the attitude that “I’ll do what ever I want because that’s what I want to do and everyone else is not important”.

  Unfortunately I have seen a steady increase of this behaviour. Not just in the older students but starting as young as kindergarten and continuing into the older grades. I thought that this was a generational thing but after looking at some research I believe that it is, in part a generation issue; the generation being the parents of the students.
  Studies from the Making Caring Common Project in Harvard have shown that about 78% of middle and high school students choose ‘achieving at a high level’ or ‘happiness’ over caring for others.   They also found out that three times of them would see their peers agreeing with this statement, “I’m prouder if I get good grades in my classes than if I’m a caring community member in class and school.”
  Yet where does all this thinking begin? Where did it start? Well for that answer they asked the students and the results are pretty clear. They asked the students how they viewed their parents’ child-raising priorities when it came to achievement, happiness or caring for others. The results where: 81% said achievement or happiness and 19% viewed caring is their parents top priority.   The study continued by asking teachers, administrators and other school staff (school adults), who work with the students, the same questions about the parents’ priorities for the children. They found that about 80% of the school adults viewed parents as prioritising achievement or happiness over caring for others.
  So the research says that parents are sending messages to their children that ‘achieving at a high level’ or ‘happiness’ is more important than caring for others. Yet when asked they do not see it and are surprised at the results.
  I have found it baffling that parents under value their contribution to the education and moulding of their children. Many believe that their child will learn more from a teacher than from them. I have told many parents that my contribution to their child’s learning is a musicale one in the larger scheme of things. Many don’t believe me but I explain it this way.
  ‘Your child will be in school for about 14 years (elementary, middle and high school). They are with me for one out of those 14 years. It’s not even a full year, 10 months. Furthermore its only five days a week, for about 6 hours a day. That’s assuming they start when they are four years old. Yet for the first four years of their life and the remaining 14 years, who are they with all the time? So I ask you, who do you think has a greater influence in teaching your child, me or you?’ Their stunned silence speaks volumes.
  When I read all this research, add in my own experience and then add what I see in the world today, I should say, “Well if they don’t care, I won’t care either.” But something inside me says “No!” I do care about others. That is probably why this affects me so much. I care about everyone in the class. My contribution maybe limited to only a few hours a day, but when they do see me I will try to be that beacon that speaks to them that caring about others is my priority. Perhaps that will inspire some to care about others too. As a famous saying goes;

“Look at the ripples. So small a first then look how they grow. But someone has to start them.”

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