A Little Caring Goes a Long Way

Jess TonnThe 2012 PDK/Gallup Poll is out today, which once again contains loads of interesting stats about how Americans view public schools. For example: The biggest problem facing schools, as seen through the eyes of the average American? Lack of financial support.

Being a professional wordsmither, I was fascinated to see that “caring” and “encouraging” are the words poll respondents used most frequently to describe the teachers who had the most influence in their lives. These two words also were the most mentioned in the 2010 edition of the poll.

2012 PDK/Gallup poll Table 25

What strikes me about this list is that these words don’t usually surface in discussions of teacher effectiveness, but they often are used to describe educators who work with kids outside of the traditional school day. No doubt that our most effective teachers are encouraging and caring, even if we use different measures to evaluate their performance. But building relationships with kids is at the core of what community educators, like coaches and service-learning leaders, do every day. They make a difference in kids’ lives by encouraging and nurturing them to be their best in school, after school, on stage, on the playing field, and in life.

So, how do we get more caring and supportive adults into our schools, alongside engaging teachers? Here’s one solution: