What Teachers Really Want

It is becoming very difficult for teachers across North America to convince the public of the need to fight for education, to support the deeply felt emotions and beliefs directed toward ideals and professional standards that we teachers have come to espouse. Why is this? When the issue at hand for everyone in the ‘real world’ is about money and teacher salaries, the educational profession is suddenly reduced to something smaller than a calling.

It becomes a job.

Money is certainly a separating line between groupings in society. Whenever money comes into play, there are going to be divisions. It is just par for the course. On the continuum of how well people are compensated and valued for their lifework, teachers could surely be said to have been given a fair shake, at least in comparison to most other employment found in communities where schools are located. Retail work, customer service, industry and manual labor positions are all found to be less compensated. And in other caring professions concerned with people, we are again found to be better off. For instance, we as teachers get more compensation for our work than certainly parents are paid for their efforts/commitments (as evidenced in the governments pithy attempts to provide tax relief and the child tax benefits- compensation that could never be called a salary for a SAHM); we make more than foster parents, more than human services workers, youth workers, probation officers, community liaisons, coaches and non-profit supports; and depending on who you talk to (and in what province) teachers make more than social workers and quite possibly even more than some nurses, who require similar educational standards and rigorous training (side-note: a quick Google search showed salaries to be comparable across most provinces).

When teachers sit down at the collective bargaining table, it appears to the public that all we are talking about are salaries. This is just not the case. Bargaining is conducted first concerning the student’s educational experience, and this is of utmost importance. How many teachers will a school have? What sizes should classes be? How much money is allocated to supports (both internal and external)? Who is in charge of curriculum delivery? What role will specialists have? How many EAs will be provided? These, among other concerns, are dealt with first. It is therefore unfortunate that teachers are only given ‘air play’ when it appears we are whining about wanting more money; I believe that teachers have more ‘at stake’ than merely our salaries.

As teachers, we came into this profession because we deeply care: care about teaching, care about student welfare, care about ideas, care about the future of our current generation, care about subject matter we believe is relevant, care about critical thinking, care about social justice, care about tolerance. And certainly we care about so much more.

We care.

Since teachers are essentially people who care, the care we invest takes teaching from just being a job and elevates it to something more worthwhile. Teachers should ideally be called into this profession- a calling of the heart. One that serves to inspire, motivate, encourage and arouse within young people the seed for greatness.

Teachers talk about choosing this profession because we want to make a difference in someone’s life. We want to be known as the catalyst for someone elses’ greatness. We believe that we truly are the wind beneath our students’ wings. We even desire to see our students surpass our wildest expectations.

Therefore, teachers want the general public to understand that there are different components to being a teacher. Unfortunately, what the public sees is the negative side: the side that is presented in the media when it is contract time and negotiations are underway. But what our students see is something entirely different. They see us as advocates. As role models. As mentors and guides. They see us as a listening ear. As caring yet effective examples. As supportive coaches. Sometimes even like a family member. This side rarely makes the news, but it is the authentic side of who were are. It’s the side that our students know and appreciate.

I wish that the public could understand that the negotiating that is done behind closed doors in provinces across Canada and then held up for public scrutiny is not the true reflection of what a teacher is at heart. We are not money hungry. We are not selfish individuals thinking only of ourselves. We care deeply about our students and that is where 95% of our thinking is invested while we are on the job. Of course, there are always going to be reasons why teachers feel they should be monetarily compensated for the work they do. This is only fair to expect when people invest their lives, education and extra time into providing the best possible service and practice they know how.

But money isn’t everything.

Even more than money, I think what teachers truly crave is to be valued. We want to be appreciated for our lifework. Maybe not every day, and not with loud broadcasting voices. Just quietly offered a word of appreciation. Not because we are entitled, but because we are human. We all appreciate praise. And it is my belief that gratitude can sometimes mean more to people than money ever would.

It is like anything: when we are appreciated, we as people want to do so much more to please, above and beyond our job description, because of that little motivation we’ve received. Everybody does better with thanks. Perhaps if all our life-work, employment and professions were more appreciated- from SAHM to retail workers to farmers to nurses… to the girl that just gave you your coffee at Tim’s: it would not be quite so difficult for us to understand each other. If we all valued one another more, thanked each other more often, and showed one another gratitude more regularly, we would see less of this negativity in the media that drags us all down.

It’s certainly worth considering.

Finding Purpose

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“Listen to me. You HAVE to decide what you believe to be the most important work in the world and then you have to DO THAT WORK. Because THIS is what happens. THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS. God shows up.”- Glennon Doyle- Melton

I am still recovering from yesterday’s drama. As a day among many other similar days, it still wasn’t the best example of my most shining moment as a parent. I might have been a bit too impatient- MIGHT have lost my cool and run out of a room. I might have had a mini adult tantrum.

In short, I might have failed a bit as a parent.

And so, when today arrived new and shining, I did what I always do. As daybreak dawned bright and new, I woke to the promise of another try. Another chance. A fresh beginning. I got up and faced the challenge.

I showed up.

This is important to remember: even after apologies have been offered and forgiveness is finally on the table, sometimes things don’t always work out perfectly- that is something I am learning.

But here’s what else I know to be true.

When we begin again and life still isn’t perfectly worked out- all the kinks haven’t been smoothed and all the creases haven’t been folded- sometimes a little bit of heaven shines through anyway and we are reminded of our purpose. Reminded why we are here and why we are still doing what we’re doing.


I walk into the school with the buses already lining up beside me, and I met immediately with a little girl whom I know and care for greatly. She and I- we just connect. I sense immediately that this little girl, like me, has started the day off with a bit of apprehension- maybe even a bit of fear: I can just feel it. And it doesn’t take very long for both of us to get to the heart of the matter, she and I. Talking about our STUFF, the things that weigh us down. She’s only eight, but she is oh, so wise. And I feel tears forming and love rising inside of me, even as I listen to her. I remind myself yet again: we are all in this together.


I walk into the office, and I find him sharing his little heart with anyone that will listen. And I feel compelled to leave my comfortable cocoon- the little space I am occupying this moment…leave it, so as to tell him that I have been there too- that I have stuff that holds me down, binds me up inside. I am not perfect either, Little Man. And as I tell him something that makes him laugh, I feel inside of me a weight lifting. It’s like my soul was a leaden balloon and he has just lifted a release to let it fly anyway. That laughter we share is freeing. I am being lifted once again by an eight-year old.


I stand in the hallway readying children for the buses. A little boy runs into my room and hands me a small green zombie head. “Mrs. Gard, I just want to give this to you,” he says exuberantly. I take the small offering, turning it over in my hand. “Why me?” I ask inquisitively.

“Because,” he says ( a shining light in his eyes), “You always let me come into your room.


I line up my own little class for the buses, and one of my dear little four turns his head in my direction. Before he makes the turn in the hallway to move out of my sight, he looks back at me and says, “Mrs. Gard, I love you!”

So this was my day…today.


We must all find our purpose in this life and that purpose must compel us to move forward, doing what we can and what we are able so as to live out our calling.

Someone recently told me that they didn’t know what their purpose was. This is hard, challenging work- figuring out our purpose. It is stretching, complicated stuff. And it always leaves us changed, different than we were before.

I think part of my purpose is to care about people. It is why I am here. And I find that the more I care, the more I am able to care. The more able I am to care, the better I get at it. The better I get at it, the more I feel challenged by it. The more challenged I am by this whole endeavor, the more soul-searching I must do to re-confirm that where I am RIGHT NOW is where I need to be.

I am where God has placed me to be in the larger scheme of life.

But I know all too well: caring for people is frustrating work. It is hard. And it often leaves us feeling a bit stripped of resources. A bit broken and vulnerable. But when we do care, in honest, authentic, open ways, we allow for opportunity so that others can then see us for who we really are, giving them hope in the process.

Caring is like that: it is attentive, connective and relational.

And while there are times when those relationships we nurture leave us raw and open, leave us feeling exposed. There are other times besides when we see growth. For in allowing fragility to act as a bridge for caring, we are then led down different paths and toward new horizons. To new opportunities of care. Led to other people who need our care, even but for a little while before we return our hearts again toward home.

Caring heals us,
From the inside out.

Our calling might be as different as our days are varied. But one thing is sure: we are called to care. And when we care for others, doing what we can in the little ways we are given, God gives us the strength to do the greater work He has for us. One little act of love at a time.

The Life and Calling of a Teacher

It’s snowing.

He and I walk a stretch of icy road, heading down to the bridge below the farm. Blizzard warnings have cancelled school across the Island, so this is our P.E. class for the day. Cabin fever never hurt to act as motivator for a teenager to spend time with their mother.
I ask him the question, and he’s thoughtful in his response.
What is the most important way your teachers can show you they care? Because I want this to be practical- I want this to be real. I really want to hear his answer, if this is going to guide my lived experience.
He responds- the words, not shocking in their revelation: I want them to be understanding- and nice. An answer quick and to the point. He doesn’t mention initially his fine teachers’ collective breadth of knowledge, their expertise. The lessons they’ve taught or the curriculum they’ve unpacked. His answer doesn’t reference the lectures, the assignments and projects.
But he does talk about the relationship. Their ability to care. Words that confirm what I am beginning to understand about caring, compassion and kindness- about transparency and thoughtfulness. Words that confirm to me as a teacher the heart of the matter about teachers and the relationship they have to their students. That is, what really matters to our students is who we are. Not what we do.

It was fall of my Grade 12 year, the year I remember as ‘The Move.’ My father having been relocated in his job as a pastor packed up our meager family possessions and moved his wife and four children minus one over the course of a weekend. It sometimes takes a weekend to unravel a family. And at other times, it just takes a moment.

I alone remained behind, determined that I wouldn’t be leaving all I had known and loved. Sixteen is a brazen age. It’s old enough to know that one couldn’t leave behind their childhood memories. Their home, their life. And it’s old enough to stay behind. But it’s not quite old to know exactly how to pull it all off. My parents in their wisdom allowed me the choice to remain behind so long as I chose to live with a family friend. Someone they trusted. But I was on my own when it came to paying rent and looking after essentials. I agreed to their terms and so it was decided. But the day they pulled out from the driveway of our first family home, moving van loaded up with my childhood toys, my bed and dresser, van full to the brim with my four younger siblings and weeping mother- that is a day that will forever be imprinted on my memory.

I lasted until the following Monday evening when I finally caved, coming to my senses as well as the bittersweet realization that I needed to be with my family. I needed to go home, whatever that meant now. There was a scramble- a gathering of my own small assemblage of life possessions and a drive from one province to another. Which is to say, I found a way to reunite with my family a few days later, as bittersweet as that reunion might have felt in those moments.

That move crushed me- left me feeling as if the bottom had fallen out from my world. And it left me to cope with the difficult task of starting over, starting fresh at a time in one’s life when they should be celebrating the finish line.

I found myself in a brand new school. A strange place to find yourself when you are sixteen, in love and at the pinnacle of your school career. Starting over- it was humbling. Perhaps what I needed, although I wouldn’t have said so then. I went from knowing everyone to knowing no one. From being part of a crowd to feeling outside the crowd. I went from having a presence to feeling invisible. But at the time, I would have readily admitted it was my worst sixteen year old nightmare come true.

Somehow I managed to pull things together enough to make it work. I made a few friends, did well in my courses and tried to keep up on the news from my former school and friendship circle, places and people I identified in my heart as my real home.

There were a few classes in the new school that I did enjoy, especially one taught by a Mr. T. A funny, earnest man, he infused life into the classrooms with his stories, his wealth of knowledge and his love of all things chemistry. And I can’t remember at what point in the semester he called me down to his classroom for a chat, but I will never forget the care and concern in his voice. Somehow, he had seen me there in the back row of his classroom, hiding underneath a veil of resentment, fear and insecurity- angry that my life had been interrupted. And in spite of it all, he made a point of looking past the image so as to connect with me. Letting me know that I had potential- that he saw the best in me at a time in my life when I couldn’t see the best in my circumstances.

Mr. T was unforgettable. Was it the chemistry lessons he delivered? The curriculum outcomes he covered? Was it his vast knowledge and seemingly infinite understanding I remember? What was it exactly that forever etched his impression on my memory?

What I remember now as a teacher myself was his smile. His laughter. And I remember that he saw me.

There are times in our service as teachers when we set aside the act of doing for the sacred work of being. When lessons and lectures, activities and testing are momentarily shelved, playing second fiddle to the art of listening. When caring is the curriculum, and life is the lesson. There are times when we see that our noble profession is more than mere passing on of knowledge. A routine work of filling empty vessels. And those are the times when we see through new eyes- our students. See them as people. As possibility. We see them for the potential they truly are. Those times remind us- it is the care we infuse into our work that makes the difference.

Such is the life and calling of a teacher.

On Being Better…


It’s been a day of unraveling from the core.

Woke up before the crack of dawn and then watched the sun rise an hour and a half later, all blush pink and orangey-red tones. A rising bulb of glowing fire emerging from a gently waking earth.

We Six drive to a teacher’s conference in Charlottetown (where Husband and I will spend the next two days in session, while my exhausted mother, who has not slept a solid seven-hour stretch since May, literally- will watch our four children by day). We teachers Two will take the baton in passing at the supper time hour, when all eight of our worlds collide- converting our hats from professional ones to the more intimate personal. And those world colliding?  That would be Husband’s, mine, the Fantastic Four, my mother’s and my dad’s. Should be rather interesting. But right now, I am thinking ahead to when we all plan to go in for a family swim at the university’s Cari Complex later on this evening. This, something Daughter and I have planned, to be an annual event. And I am still unaware of the intervening variables that will come into play later on today making this dream dissolve as if a curl of smoke in mid air.  A disappointment and contribution to the unravelling, no doubt.

The events which complicate: our two Oldest will have already swam at this same pool in the afternoon with their childhood buddies- children who moved into town recently due to their father’s work-related move, a visit rendering our plans to swim as a happy family null and void. By no fault of the children’s nor the hospitable family, I might add. It’s just the way things happen.

That’s how it goes.

We eat supper and linger over my sister-in-law’s apple tarts, a delicacy with flaky golden crust that melts in your mouth. I wish I had room to savour more, but as it is, I cannot find an inch in my stomach for Son’s spicy gingerbread with whipped cream which he has made with my mother just this afternoon. I won’t mention in detail the chocolate-chip pumpkin muffin I scarfed down prior to supper- a lone remainder from Sister’s generous offerings that just begged to be ingested. The food offerings at my Mother’s house make me weak in the knees. There is always lots to choose from and all are absolutely delicious possibilities.  She is the best baker I have ever known- part of the delight in visiting is the absolute joy it is to sit at her table.

So with all this goodness and light behind us, it is difficult to reason at what point the unraveling truly began. Perhaps it was in my own mind as I tried to figure out who would go with whom and when- not an easy task when involving four children with varying options and interests. Perhaps it began even earlier than this, at the break of the day when I was caught up in a reverie and happened to mention to Husband the absolute pleasure it would be to take a Mediterranean cruise next year in celebration of our 20th anniversary- to which I later reasoned would be an absolute impossibility considering the circumstance of our crazy life right now, at this given point in time. A realization which brought my hopes and dreams crashing back down to realistic playing fields. So there you go. Perhaps the unraveling was due to these- perhaps to something else far deeper.

Was it disappointment? Stress? Worry? Fear? Anxiety?

At any rate, the Two Youngest, Husband and I all swam together, while the two others sat, waited, fumed and wiled away the time. And then as we the swimmers froze in the dressing room under intermittent showers, we finally emerged only to realize that no one had known to take a token from the front desk, leaving us in our van stuck inside the parking lot behind the exit gate. Stuck with some Cranky passengers, I might add (one of which was me- I will not lie). And then, after inserting the toonie and then walking back to the complex to retrieve the two attendees, I found myself walking the parking lot just to escape the van and all its commotion.  So needless to say, it was a time.  And we also came to discover that toonies which are invalid in parking meters sometimes go missing.  An annoyance. But thank goodness, we were still able to find that the gate would rise in spite of this grave consequence, allowing us to all finally end the day.

It was a very quiet, contemplative ride back to my Mother’s house. Might I add, emotions were also very close to the surface.

And that is how I found myself, upon arriving home, making an error of the most grave proportions- one that I immediately regretted but could not undo. And for which I mourned that hasty decision to act in the moment: rashly, harshly and impudently.  In the words of Paul, why do we do what we don’t want to do?  And the good that we want seems to only elude us?

Sometimes a mother will find herself saying sorry only to realize that the word ‘sorry’ is not enough to undo a wrong that only time, and patience and love can heal. But that same mother can beat herself up continuously- over and over again, for all that she has done and all that it means in the larger context.  She can punish herself severely.  And she can tell herself that she is undeserving, unfit, unloving, incapable and incompetent. And she can believe those words.

Until a little girl comes to her after work and tells her about her day and reaches up to sit on that same mother’s lap once again. Showing her that even her very children can lead the way to love when all other doors have been slammed shut. Even a child can mend an unsteady bridge that has been badly damaged.

I hold that Little Girl tightly to me tonight even as I promise myself: I will be better next time.

When we know better, we live better.

And through it all, we will come to be better.

Why We Care

She slouches on the vinyl chair next to mine, chewing her lip, twirling her hair. Wrinkles creasing her brow. And as she sits, I wonder.  Is she thinking of what to expect, even as she knows the reason for why we are here? Or is there more to the wonder than mere childlike speculation?

The reason for why we have left the house at such a crazy-early hour to drive for two hours was not, of course, to only sit and wait. We are here for other more pressing concerns. And yet, there is always the fear of the great unknown- especially for a child.

Not to mention of course the apprehension it brings the mother.

The doctor arrives with a bluster of energy and vigour. She immediately puts at ease what was formerly a worry. What was moments ago a source of stress, a source of concern, is now an afterthought in light of this physician’s delightful presence. She just seems to do this work so naturally- without a thought to the magic she has achieved. Weaving a tapestry of compassion through her laid-back banter, silly jokes and thoughtful concern. But then again: doesn’t care always have that gentle way of easing, of lessening the burden? And as the moments tick toward the hour we will spend in this tiny little room, I find my daughter relaxing. Find her unwinding, creased brow giving way to a smile. And all this because a doctor has chosen to spend this hour in this room with us, taking the time needed to care for the person, rather than merely just diagnosing the patient.

If a busy doctor, bound by the relentless expectations and constraints that often define this demanding profession, can make the time to show caring, compassionate concern, so might we do much of the same in the field of education.

It is not a matter of should- it is a matter of how.

How can we invest in the lives of our students in caring, compassionate ways even as the demands around us increase exponentially?

We can and we must, and one way I propose this can be done is through investing in care. That is, making it a priority to value the person that is the student- along with the tandem idea of valuing the people as a whole which comprise our classroom community. Through valuing and giving worth to the human beings that represent the education system in which they are found, we give credence to the humanity of the students. We recognize the person-hood of each boy and girl, man or woman who sit in front of us day after day. And this- all achieved by seeing though the test scores, records and data to the very real hearts and souls of the children and teenagers that we are called to teach. Taking the time to know the story of their lives instead of reducing them to a number and figure on paper. Taking the time to understand the context in which the students we learn alongside- live, work and play. For when this happens, we can fully care for our students in their learning, development and growth even while the system might appear to breath heavy down our necks. After all, if we sacrifice care on the altar of academic standards of excellence, haven’t we lost everything?

Standards mean little if the people that represent them are dehumanized.

Taking care of ourselves

She playfully bats at the little ball of fluff, her baby. Tousling, grooming, cuddling, nursing. But when she sees the need, setting the little kitten free to explore without the ever-present eye of Mama to govern and oversee. Sometimes, she completely appears to abandon, lazing in the sun while her tiny kitten sits alone on the top stair of our steps, wary and uncertain. Is Mama neglectful? I think not.

When mama cat lovingly stretches out languidly on our top step with baby nearby, her tiny offspring responds to her in love. There is no doubt that there is a relationship between the two. But it is one designed to set free so that the younger can one day take care of herself. To never allow for the certainty that the baby will one day be on its own would be a tragedy. True. Everyone needs love- even barn cats. But you rarely see amongst animals any form of helicopter parenting as one often sees in human parenting. Animals seem to know instinctively the balance needed so as to nurture and prepare their offspring for life after the nursery.

Care requires that we respond within a relationship. Within relationships of care, there is always a two-way exchange happening at any given time- a process which can reverse and rearrange at seemingly a moment’s notice. And all because relationships of care are responsive. A caregiver in relationship to another acknowledges a need or a requirement, responds to that need and then allows for caring to occur. This process can be reversed almost immediately, depending on the relationship. The cared-for- in response to the care emitted, can then responsively give care to the other almost immediately.

In thinking about care so much and so often, I am realizing that there are elements of care that we have forgotten. I feel we have forgotten at times how to take care. A local radio personality whom I have listened to over the years often signs off with the phrase, ‘take care of one another today’; from the moment I first heard this phrase, it has stuck with me. How does one take care? And where does care-taking begin?

I would suggest that there are dimensions of caretaking that we must heed. That we have overlooked. The first being our need to take care of ourselves.

There is an underlying assumption that we need to take care of one another in life, but in order to do this, we first need to learn the secret of taking care of ourselves. In taking care of ourselves, we need to learn to listen to our bodies, listen to our hearts. We have all heard of the spoken rule, given by flight attendants on airlines, to put on your own mask on first prior to helping your children or other dependents. I am convinced in my own life that the growth and development of care woven throughout my life experiences has been a direct result of my learned ability to care for myself, self-care guided for me by faith through the direction of a loving Father. For years, I looked to others to care for me. Why weren’t they doing what I thought was the basic of all human responses- caring? Why were people not responding to my needs? And why wasn’t I feeling loved and looked after? Why was I feeling so bereft? These feelings of a deficit in care followed me into my marriage, leaving me looking to a husband to fulfil the role of caretaker, a tremendous responsibility considering he was not even the one who had left me feeling unloved and uncared for in the first place. That was baggage I had brought into our marriage- a composite of my difficult years of schooling, my years in the public eye as a pastor’s kid and the other personal experiences of my life that directly impacted me in very private ways. We cannot first expect others to care for us if we have not learned how to care for ourselves. And I am convinced that many, many problems in marriages could be avoided if we first were able to redirect our need for care back to ourselves- as well as if we could start to see that the ways people express care, initiate care, offer care, interpret care and understand care: are different. Different. Not bad, worse, inferior or poorer: just different. Maybe we need to start by seeing the best in what another human being is offering us, starting with our partners.

I would never, ever wish the message I am conveying to be one in which we reduce the responsibility we have toward others. My life is rich because I have learned to care for others. I believe that the transformation in my life has been one in which, with God’s guiding hand, I was able to take something that was painful and difficult and see the good in it. I think this is the reason I am now able to responsively express care to others: there has been a miracle in my life. But I would never want to overstep the responsibility I have been given to care for myself in all of this. That was a first step in this process- understanding the needs in my life and slowly taking measures to meet those needs one by one through loving myself. Through accepting myself. Unconditionally. I had to learn to love myself so as to love others. And I cannot personally underestimate my faith in Jesus and my Abbba Father in this process- as I have come to understand I have a Father who loves me intimately and expressly, I can now love myself as an expression of His love. I am free to love the others in my life as I now know how much I am loved myself.

And this is the very essence of care: freedom to love and responsively give to oneself and the others in one’s life. Freely, wholly, purely.

All because of love.

Why I care

We talk a lot about white privilege, but it is a little more discomforting to broach a discussion on white poverty. Somehow it hits closer to home.

I grew up in the heart of the Annapolis Valley, a small rural farming community known for its potatoes and apple orchards. My community was aptly named Melvern Square, as it was a squared off corridor firmly anchored by three pillars: family, community and faith. My father was one of two pastors called to minister in this area, ensuring that I lived my life firmly fixed within the public’s eye- on first name basis with most everyone I’d meet.

It was an idyllic life in ways. We were poor but we got by. I remember trips to the country store- a one room building with wide wooden clapboards filling in the floor space, glass candy jars containing five cent goodies lining the back wall. When the front door was cracked even so much as an inch, an old-fashioned bell signalled both your appearance and your exit, ensuring you would never peruse the ice cream freezer or chip rack anonymously. Our house was sandwiched between the community center on the right and my father’s little brown country church on the left. Behind our property was the community pond for skating on in the winter and avoiding in the summer- as we all speculated that alligators or other forms of creepy-crawlies might live in there. Across the street was the consolidated school housing grades 1-6- a school which I never had the privilege of attending.

The school I attended was a private institution located in a neighboring community. When I entered the educational milieu, I quickly realized that my life was not what it had seemed to be. I became the “other”- teased for my different religious affiliation, tortured for my family connection, belittled for my appearance. Separated for my difference. I was disconnected in many ways. And I soon came to understand the term “white trash” and its unflattering connotations, as that is what I began to feel I was while in this school. Trash. Unloved and undesirable.

My schooling experience was thus one in which oppression was very visible. This same private school I attended later came to be exposed regarding “issues” of a very serious, abusive nature. These privately held secrets of the upper echelon came to be outed in a very visible way via news media when I was in high school. When I now see images of residential schools, it brings to mind sordid mental pictures of what that time of life was like for both me and my classmates. That experience has forever changed the way I look at education.

So then. As long as I have been a student, I have been interested in ethics of care in classrooms. As I did not have the privilege of being exposed to ethics of care in most of my formative years of schooling, I now spend my life advocating for these pedagogies of love and care along with the foundational rights that I believe all people- young and old- are worthy of receiving and deserve to experience as a basic human right. By virtue of their humanity.

One of the specific memories I have as a student took place when I was in Grade 7, attending this same school mentioned above. A young man in Grade 10, who had been having a particularly difficult time in his life, went around one day after school saying good-bye to everyone he could see in the hallway. It struck me as strange that he would seek me out, as I was quite a bit younger than him and outside his social circle. That night, as I would come to discover, he drove his car into a wooded area and shot himself in the head. This was my first exposure to suicide.

Rather than taking time to counsel us in our grief and confusion, the teachers at this school used this opportunity to tell us how this boy, and thus his classmates, had been and were heading down the wrong path and needed to get things straightened out. It was one of the most poignant memories of my schooling. I can still hear the judgemental voice of the female teacher who told me and my classmates that Donnie* had obviously been in the wrong, and I will never forget that mental picture of him the day before he died, his face resolute: epitomized by soft spoken words and a calm demeanor. Although there are many layers to this story that I could pursue at length, my experiences as a student living through a deficit of care in my schooling, along with the many, many others of my classmates who echo this sentiment, has convinced me that care is the absolute number one priority of educators in the classroom. We are educating students for academic learning, yes. But I trust we are first and foremost developing caring, compassionate human beings in the form of both students and teachers who will live empathically in an interconnected, interdependent world. As an educator, this is fundamental to my practice.

I believe that when people learn to care, their learning is enhanced and their growth is furthered. Students and teachers are all the better for the care that they have cultivated, and I am not alone in holding this belief. Miller (2010) cites Nel Noddings’ work as being premiere in the encouragement of educators in fostering this care ethic. She suggests that educators pursue caring as one of their main goals in schooling and education, teaching students to learn to care for themselves, others and the environment as well as to care for ideas and learning (Miller, 2010, p. 63). Noddings has laid out a very systematic, comprehensive approach to caring that entails teachers be clear and unapologetic in their goal: “the main aim of education should be to produce competent, caring, loving and lovable people” (Noddings in Miller, 2010, p.64). I can attest to the fact that many, many others hold this belief as I have heard from people writing in response to my blog on what students remember most about teachers. They almost unanimously stated the same: students remember that their teachers care.

We are a culmination of our past and present experiences- and the breadth and depth of these same experiences will hopefully lead to a brighter, more positive future as we learn and grow.  When we know better, we do better.  I trust that this statement will always be true of my life and that my legacy will be one of care and love.