UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Webs of educational relationships Coulter, Dianne Ellen


This thesis uses a number of stories from my early practice as a secondary teacher to illustrate what for me is the crux of teaching—relationships. I use the work of Nel Noddings and Hannah Arendt to analyze these stories and to discuss the importance of relationships in teaching. Nel Noddings has written extensively on the concept of an ethic of care and her book the Challenge to Care: An Alternative Approach to Education is an in-depth description of a curriculum organized around centres of care. For Noddings education is complex and takes into account the whole person: their values, attitudes and relationships with others. I talk about the role of the care-giver and cared-for. Noddings believes that we all have the capacity to care; caring requires one to be receptive, to recognize when someone needs to be cared for. Caring also requires courage. To be a care-giver one must know the cared-for, that is, one must be in relationship; accordingly teachers must foster educational relationships with their students. I also discuss the roadblocks schools put in the way of educational caring and developing students themselves to become care-givers. I will be using a number of Hannah Arendt's concepts that have significant educational importance. She divides human activities into labour, work and action and I discuss what these activities look like in an educator's day. I will also discuss her concepts of private and public and how the classroom is both a private and public space. Her most important concepts are plurality and natality: plurality involves making sense of our lives in dialogue with other people; natality signals the uniqueness each of us brings to those conversations. It is crucially important for teachers to respect both plurality and natality in educating children to take their place in the world and more importantly to make their mark. I will then compare the work of Noddings and Arendt, showing that, while their ideas may seem antithetical, their projects are in important ways complementary. Noddings is primarily concerned with educating students to care: to care about themselves, about others, about animals and about the environment. Her concern is to care on an individual level. Arendt wants students to care about the world. She wants people to make a difference, she wants them to interact and through this dialogue action can occur. Asa result of writing this paper I believe I more fully understand my role as an educational leader. I now more fully appreciate the responsibility teachers have in educating the young. I now understand that in my current role as an administrator taking the time to interact with people is educationally important: for example, taking time to show a new student to their locker, taking time to listen to a teacher explain an incident in class or taking time to listen to a personal concern. Relationships are what matter and making the time to develop and maintain relationships is the most important part of my role as an educational leader.

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