Classroom Culture: Stories of Empathy and Belonging

Classroom Culture: Stories of Empathy and Belonging

Joshua Kent Taylor (Oklahoma State University, USA)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 13
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2971-3.ch011

Abstract

This chapter uses three stories of schools and students to explore the concepts of emotionally responsive teaching and mentoring. The stories suggest a need for teachers to engage students by creating higher senses of school connectedness. Teachers are encouraged to understand their students and demonstrate a transformational leadership approach suggested by Burns in his seminal work on leadership. Finally, the chapter urges teachers and educational leaders to see themselves as cultural architects, tasked with listening and creating spaces for belonging. Through an approach that engages students on an emotional level through empathy, educational leaders will increase the engagement and success of students.
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Nothing Gold Can Stay

Nature’s first green is gold,

Her hardest hue to hold.

Her early leaf’s a flower;

But only so an hour.

Then leaf subsides to leaf.

So Eden sank to grief,

So dawn goes down to day.

Nothing gold can stay.

Robert Frost, the great American poet, first published “Nothing Gold Can Stay” in 1923. In 2012, this poem formed the centerpiece of my hardest and most thoughtful days of teaching.

I started teaching at a small private school in Portland, OR. After three years of teaching 7th and 11th grade Language Arts, I moved with my wife and two sons to Oklahoma, near my hometown. I taught 8th grade Language Arts for one year in a town about 45 minutes away from our home. Then, for my 5th year of teaching, I accepted a position teaching 8th grade Language Arts at our local junior high. I loved the school, the students, and my colleagues.

I taught in a two-room portable just outside the back doors to the school. My portable-mate became a good friend, and we collaborated extremely well throughout the entire year. We started the year with the quintessential Oklahoma junior high novel, The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. It is a captivating text with limitless possibilities for Language Arts—but also an incredible text for valuable discussions about the complex social dynamics of junior high life. I loved starting the year with this text because the class was able to talk about relevant and important social concerns. Within just a few short weeks of school, my students were already engaging in real discussions about caring for one another, the dangers of hateful groups that disallowed others, and looking out for overlooked people. We were off to a great start! But this year was not to be the dream year I intended.

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