Solution Proposal Huseby

Nurturing vs. Neglecting

Having a nurturing and enjoyable learning environment in the classroom is one of the most important things for children to have while in school to strengthen their ability to learn. This leads to a number of positive factors in learning. Children not only feel comfortable with their environment, but they also absorb and understand the information better. This creates a domino effect, leading teachers to have better and more understandable material because they know their students better, leading to better test scores, which increases funding for the school. In order to have a positive and nurturing learning environment, it begins with a nurturing teacher. We do not have a focus on nurturing classrooms in this country due to the fact that some people find that this is not the most important part of a child's learning environment and development. This is caused by demand of high test scores for schools, lack of support from administrators, and needs for school funding.

Teachers need to include caring relationships, high expectations, and give students opportunities for important participation and involvement. By having these three supports both at home and in school, students meet their needs for love, belonging, respect, and meaning which will lead to positive social outcomes, avoidance of bad or life threatening behavior, and increase their desire to learn and succeed. Having an unsafe learning environment can cause negative consequences on children. It can lead to learning problems, behavioral problems (lack of connectedness), and not wanting to participate in school related activities. Long term consequences could be learning or physical health problems or even disturbing learning attention and absorption which can lead to lower lifetime earnings and incomes ("Reducing Youth Health Disparities").

Children who are abused or neglected are left with deep and lasting scars. The biggest problem for neglected children in education comes when they are forced to take care of other family members. This not only takes away time from homework, but it makes the chances of that child getting to participate in age-appropriate activities almost impossible (Nu). This kind of trauma does not just have to be physical. Emotional scarring leaves children full of self-hate, lack of trust, trouble showing emotions because they feel useless or worthless. Abuse and neglect does not just happen in the home. Neglectful teachers, both knowingly and unknowingly, can cause serious problems for children’s futures. Some of the common emotional abuse that children get from teachers are constant yelling or threatening, ignoring the child as punishment, and constantly being compared to a different student or students and being told they are not as good. When students feel welcomed and safe in the school environment, they don’t feel left out. In the majority of harmful cases, like school shootings, the gunman was someone who felt neglected by everyone around them. They believed they were an outcast and did not want to be treated that way anymore. The lack of a nurturing environment in school is very unsettling because according to the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System, or NCANDS, out of the approximately 899,000 children in the United States who were victims of abuse in 2005, 564,765 (62.8%) of children suffered solely from neglect, which included medical neglect. Prevent Child Abuse America estimated that 1,291 children died from maltreatment in the United States in 2005 ("Child Neglect").

Three un-bias domains that honor students experiences are identity, diversity, and action. Students who feel their experiences are judged, unwelcome, stereotyped, disrespected, or invisible tend to find class to be extremely difficult to engage in meaningful discussions. Student's whose voices are heard and reflected in the classroom are far more likely to engage with anti-bias curriculum and translate their language into action (Classroom Culture).

Starting with teachers, children learn to be comfortable with their surroundings in the school environment. First they get to know the teacher, then their classmates, and then the material. When teachers intentionally put children in groups with others who they feel the children would connect the most with, the children make friends with each other quickly and whole-heartedly. This leads to not only more enjoyable school years for the children, but also a safer environment for everyone in the school for the future. Children will feel more comfortable with one another so when a problem arises, students can ask any passerby to go get help. By creating a safe environment for all levels of school, there may be fewer brawls or assaults which can lead to fewer lock downs and threats.

An important factor that may cause some teachers to not put a lot of effort into a nurturing classroom environment is the fact that they may not know the importance of this in a child's learning development. What new teachers have learned throughout their schooling and student teaching is all they know about the classroom and if they are not taught the importance of a nurturing environment, they won't know to put a lot of time and effort into providing that for their students. When principals were asked what they look for in teacher candidate when they are looking to hire, many said if they had to choose, passion would be the key. Passion for knowledge, passion for the job, and passion for the children (Hopkins).

While every parent wants a nurturing learning environment for their child, some of them don't think that that is the most important thing in their child's education. In schools that are tougher to get into and require high test scores for admission, parents want their child focused on learning and practicing as much information as they can in preparation for these entrance tests. Parents who find this to be the most important for their children are more likely to enroll their children in extra activities such as music lessons, science or computer programs, and educational summer camps. These parents are also more likely to enroll their children in the best private schools and are willing to hire tutors if necessary (Eccles). Having parents that focus mainly on test scores may lead to the child not only feeling pressured at school, but neglected at home. This demand can cause children to develop stress, anxiety, loss of sleep, eating disorders, cheating, burnout, or loss of interest in hobbies, as well as becoming closed off to friends and family members. Researchers from the Child and Family studies found that parents who "over-manage" their children's lives can cause the children to feel depressed, have decreased satisfaction with life, or lower their self-esteem. In many cases, parents believe they are just being supportive, but in reality they are decreasing their child's sense of self and confidence (Budzienski). While yes, parents are a contributing factor to the education of a child, administrators play a very large role in children's chance to learn.

The administration has a huge influence over teachers. If teachers do not have the support from administration to focus more on the social emotional development of children rather than the cognitive development, teachers are forced to do so. Schools want the maximum amount of funding that they can get and that comes from having high test scores. Having high test scores makes the school look better, and if the school looks better, more people will want to attend there. Across the United States, nearly half a million teachers leave their schools every year. Only 16 percent of that statistic is caused by retirement. The other 84 percent is caused by teachers transferring between schools and teachers leaving the profession entirely (Boyd).

Principals have to evaluate teachers and the lessons they teach. Each type of evaluation is different depending on the school. Knowingly so, principals are in control of what happens in the school on a daily basis. They oversee what is being taught in classrooms, what goes on in the hallways, and they are the ones who have the final say. To better the learning environment for children, principals not only should give teachers the freedom to teach what they feel is necessary for their specific class, but they should also trust teachers to get the core materials taught as well. Having a trusting and backing principal will open many doors for educators, and will allow students the chance to possibly better their education.

Upcoming teachers should be taught how to nurture a single child as well as a class. In many professional education classes in college, the material being taught is to help upcoming teachers know what it is like to teach students, write lesson plans, or to know the rules in the Code of Ethics in Minnesota. Along with those, professors should be teaching how to handle things like diversity, abuse, and disorders, because making a child feel safe and welcome is crucial for students, especially at a young age.

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, American students spent an average of 943 hours in school, while the average for the world is 791 hours (Chalabi). This means that in order to place a child in their best environment, the parent must know their needs and interests and what type of teacher would best emphasize these needs. A caring teacher, combined with specific learning techniques, creates a wonderful place for young children to learn and grow. Children learn best when allowed to work in environments that are appropriate for their level of development. There should be both a play area for activities as well as a private area for quiet time. There should be spaces provided for children to work quietly as well as areas that allow children to collaborate with one another (Isbell).

Randall Wisehart stated “Passionate teachers continually reflect on the interplay of standards, student motivation, student learning and grades” (Wisehart). By figuring out what the students are most interested in and what motivates them, teachers can find ways to make classrooms fit their needs. By doing this, teachers connect what the students learn and the scores of their tests to show it. Samy A. Azer, an Australian medical educator, stated “We identify people as role models when they inspire imitation and influence people working with them to develop new skills and achieve their potential” (Azer). Students pick up on everything a teacher does and says. How teachers react to situations will rub off onto students and they will begin to react that way in school too. By acting professionally and remembering that students are watching, teachers can create a nurturing learning environment for students starting with how they act.

A survey conducted by highly regarded teachers in a large department of medicine, where they were asked to specify the personal qualities, teaching skills and clinical competencies they considered most critical for effective role modelling in medicine found that “good teachers are enthusiastic, friendly, easy-going, able to develop rapport with learners, committed to the growth of their students, approachable, interested in learners as people, and always conscious of their status as role models.”

Leo Buscaglia, an author, motivational speaker, and professor in the Department of Special Education at the University of Southern California is quoted saying "Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around." Remembering this quote is so crucial for teachers to remember, no matter what age is being taught. Some ways caring teachers show this emotion is by listening to students and helping them express who they are and how they want to be treated. Helping students get to know each other and share information about themselves is a great way to help the learning environment become more fun and supportive. Another great way to show caring is to connect with parents and show interest and concern for their children. A very important and easy way to make students feel cared for is to include them in decisions and get their feedback on important classroom matters (NEA).

There are other little things that a teacher can do during the day to make students feel just a little extra special. Starting out the day by greeting the students as they walk in the door is a great way to start off the day. Allow some students to share with the class an object or event that has happened to them recently. This give the class a discussion topic for the entire day. Students love hearing about teachers lives, so teachers should share something that has happened to them recently. This may help students feel more connected to the teacher. In classes with a lot of diversity, it is a good idea to talk about the different cultural backgrounds that each students has. It's not only something fun and important for the children to learn, it may also make the students with different cultural backgrounds more comfortable with their peers. Teachers should also discuss bullying and how it won't be accepted, and remind the students of the golden rule, if you show respect, you will get respect back. By giving students group activities throughout the school year, it helps them build rapport and friendships with each other. When friendships form with one another, students begin to gain confidence and have high self-esteem, which is something that teachers should promote on a daily basis (Watson).

To create an environment that makes students feel welcome, teachers need to skillfully draw on students experiences to enrich the curriculum. Some easy examples of how teachers can show they value students' lives and identities would be to learn the correct pronunciation of each students name as well as get to know their families. Some other things teacher can do that may take more time would be to build curriculum around personal narratives. Being a sensitive teacher is also a great way to make students feel valued (Classroom Culture).

Not only does a nurturing environment make learning easier and more enjoyable for the children, it also does that for the teacher as well. When the children are enjoying themselves, it shows, and it makes the teacher want to continue to make the children feel that way. This causes a reflective approach, where the teacher asks themselves how to best teach based on their students needs, to learning and most definitely makes the year go smoother for both the students and the teacher.

The main focus of school needs to stop being about letter grades and test scores and start being about what the child did well and what they need to focus on to get better. While having high test scores is both important and beneficial for schools, ultimately, teaching is about building relationships (Wisehart). Many times students just want to finish the work and don’t care about the content. When teachers have a strong relationship with their students, the students want to put in their best effort and the teacher is able to give beneficial constructive criticism that the student will really pay attention to.

Teachers need to build relationships with their students and push them to achieve their best. Without nurturing environments, students lack self confidence and can lead to negative behavioral problems or even life long consequences. Teachers are the starting point in building these environments. Parents and administration can play important roles in the ability and amount of nurturing a teacher can provide students. If teachers focus more on social emotional development instead of cognitive development of students, it will be beneficial all throughout life.


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