I’m in awe of my son’s 3rd grade team.

Last year, when he was in 3rd grade, he had two teachers, a counselor, a GT specialist, a principal, and three specials teachers that cared for him. Not in a passive way, like a “my door is always open” kind of way. But in an active, give-him-hugs, come-to-multiple-parent-teacher conferences, “let’s figure this out” kind of way. One kid, eight adults just pouring love onto him. And he’s a kid that needs outward expressions of love.

As he enters fourth grade, he’ll have a lot of the same adults in his life next year as he did this past year, thankfully. I’m confident in fifth grade he’ll get that same level of care as well. Consider this blog post a partial paen to elementary schools that get that it truly does take a village.


A while back I critiqued myself for not writing about Social and Emotional Safety as I do Tasks and Facilitation. If I’ve evened out the ratios of those three elements, it’s only because I’ve written less on the blog in aggregate in the past year.

Nevertheless, I have been writing. And much of that has been about caring.

You see, we secondary teachers think we’re caring. I told kids they are welcome to hang out and talk after school. I left an open invitation for kids to come before school to get work done. I invited all students to participate. I said “good morning” at the beginning of the day. Shoot, I even greeted every kid with a handshake at the beginning of every class period. And, with a few students, I truly did have that special relationship such that I made an impact on their lives.

I showed passive caring. I opened the door and beckoned kids to come through.

Elementary teachers – at least the ones my son has – they show active caring. They open the door, beckon kids to come through, and when they don’t they’ll leave their room, grab them by the arm and bring them in. They don’t just invite kids to participate, they demand  it and make it a norm in their classroom. They don’t just say “good morning” at the beginning of the day, they hug my son, ask him how his dance class was, give him a specific word of encouragement, and then give him another hug.


I worry about the level of care it’s realistically possible to show a kid as he or she progresses through middle and high school. While it Takes a Village, kids graduate into an assembly line. They get 50 minutes with a Social Studies teacher, then they move down the assembly line to obtain their Science Parts. How many days in a row can a kid go without being shown care? I’ve talked to students who feel “invisible.” I’ve shadowed students that don’t get called on for an entire day.

Fig 1-2

I write about this in my book that will eventually be written, if I’d ever stop using the damn passive voice (see: this sentence). I was talking with a 10th Grade teacher who suggested, “maybe you should just call that chapter ‘Give a Crap.'” I laughed. And she’s right! While I don’t think I can get away with that title for a section (let alone a chapter), that’s probably the biggest differentiator between effective classrooms and ineffective ones.

Becca may have put it best:

I know it’s incredibly challenging for secondary teachers, who have limited time and expansive content to get through and, like, hundreds of students. But I’ve seen secondary teachers do it. And it’s absolutely a beautiful scene to behold, if only because it’s relatively rare in the hustle-and-bustle of the secondary learning ecosystem. I encourage you to show active caring, rather than just passive caring this year. Because that third grader who needs a word of genuine encouragement, still might need one in 10th grade.


7 thoughts on “Active Caring

  1. The book is getting written, and this post is a huge part of why I’m excited about that. Beautiful, Geoff.

    (And I’m kinda tempted to float “Give a Crap!” around the office and see what happens…)

  2. Teachers must be careful. Showing active caring today can lead to an accusation of sexual harassment and corporal punishment. Even in elementary school. In some schools, we’re not allowed to touch any student, anywhere, for any reason (although they may hug you, as long as your hands are held high).

    1. There are so many ways to show active caring other than physical touch. Let’s err on the side of being too caring, rather than not caring enough.

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