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Take your classroom back with an Authority of Care

Updated: Jul 24, 2022

My husband and I are opposites in most ways. He’s private, and I’m an open book. He’s funny, and my comic timing doesn’t exist. He’s cautious, and I’ll try anything once. As you can imagine, when we started talking about having children, our ideas about parenting matched our personalities. Recognizing that we’d constantly be arguing about even the smallest things, we decided upon a rule: everything required a two-zero vote. Whatever we had to decide, we’d have to agree on. The things we do have in common--we are both writers, talkers, and debaters--all made it easy for us to agree to this rule. Lots of our decisions have been about what we would allow our children to do. He was a hard no on our son playing football, despite the fact that I didn’t have objections--he was worried about head injuries. So, I dropped the subject and moved on. I was a huge yes for sleepovers, and I had to do quite a bit of convincing, but he came around. If we can’t convince the other person, then the answer is no.

When people hear about our agreement, they often feel that we’re too rigid. Some people have said that it doesn’t seem “fair.” The fact is, it is a gut wrenching rule when you don’t get your way. For example, I REALLY didn’t see why my husband didn’t want our kids to ride with my parents in their car. My husband, rightly, by the way, had noticed that my dad was always speeding and that my mom had mentioned that she didn’t really drive very much because she couldn’t see well. It was easier for me to just let the kids ride with my dad, but it had to be two nothing, so we stuck together. How could we agree to such an uncomfortable rule? It was simple: the authority to make these decisions came from a place of deep love and concern for our children. In other words, it was based on an authority of care.

An authority of care is a philosophy that the adults are making decisions that are deeply rooted in love and the well-being of each child. An authority of care is not one size fits all; in fact, the value lies in analyzing what is best for each kiddo. Our rules have been different for each of our children because we know them and value their individual strengths and weaknesses in a way that calls for differentiation in our parenting of them. In a classroom, the same applies: each student needs to be approached with an authority of care.

What does that look like in practice? It means that “Joey” is never going to be sent on an errand alone, but “Zach” will be. Joey would wander, get in trouble, or simply goof off. Zach needs breaks to help with his anxiety, but is a serious rule-follower, so he’d never get in trouble. It means that “Suzy” is going to be given an extra day for her homework, but “Danielle” will not. Suzy has a chaotic home life, and extra time will let her finish in a study hall, while on the other hand, Danielle gets overwhelmed when she’s behind, and she’ll shut down. It means that “Carya” can put her head down while “Sandy” can’t. Why? Carya uses a mini-break like putting her head down to handle some trauma responses, while “Sandy” is capable of staying on task but likes to avoid things she doesn’t want to do.

Is this Authority of Care fair? Does it make things difficult for the teacher? Are children able to understand why everyone is treated as individuals vs. a set of group rules that apply to everyone? Are there non-negotiable rules? These are important questions, and I hope you’ll join us on July 26th at 3:00 for “Take Your Classroom Back: Starting the New Year with the Authority of Care. We’ll be addressing these questions, as well as providing strategies to help teachers take their classrooms back and focus on what matters most!

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