It Takes Only ONE (Caring Teacher)!

With changes and advancements all around us in a highly global world, it is important to have the school play a leading role in shaping the thoughts and aspiration of young people. The collapse in family structures and the significant neglect of children in many societies have predisposed an added role on teachers.

Teachers do not merely instruct students. In fact, classroom instruction is only a small portion of a teacher’s responsibility. More than ever, teachers are required to be caring toward their students. This ‘care’ entails a relationship that carries both the teacher and his/her students to a platform of interaction that makes success and growth possible on a progressive manner.

Students do not become successful and functional members of the society by default. There are different things that teachers do in the classroom to help inculcate the desire to become successful (in students). ‘Care’ is fundamental to all teaching-learning processes and the relationships therein. ‘Care’ should color every responsibility that a teacher holds and performs in the classroom.

Every successful individual that we encounter today bears witness to the fact that at least one teacher was caring toward him/her and made a world of difference in his/her life. Every potential that students possess come alive and shines brightly for the benefit of others because of the existence of special kind of teachers who look for the best in their students.

What we need in a world filled with ‘high-risk’ students is CARING TEACHERS whose life examples and choices of behavior in the classroom would motivate, empower and change the attitude and behavior of students for the better. When this happens, we can expect a collective success at school and in the nation as a whole.

one teacher makes a difference.jpg

The book “How to Become a Caring Teacher: A Daily Guide for Highly Affective Teaching” presents this attitudinal and pedagogical approach to teaching. The author is convinced that this is the type of teaching that works most effectively in the 21st century and onward. When a teacher is caring toward his/her students, every other success experienced in the classroom becomes meaningful and lead to future achievement.
The book presents the following characteristics of a caring teacher in a practical and illustrative manner, made possible by the author’s actual experiences in the classroom:

  1. Caring teachers are caring individuals who develop relationships with their students.
  2. Caring teachers hold positive and high expectations that not only structure and guide behavior, but also challenge students to perform beyond what they believe they can do. Caring teachers are concerned about building students’ competence level by being a bridge between tasks and the students themselves.
  3. Caring teachers place a lot of responsibility on students when it comes to learning and encourage them to participate actively in all sorts of things that go on in the classroom. In other words, caring teachers treat students as responsible and respectable people.
  4. Most important of all, caring teachers believe in their students to accomplish become resourceful members of the society.

Copyright June 2006 by Dr. Edward Roy Krishnan,

Stop…! Are You Really Ready to ‘Deal’ with Students?

Every human born into this world posseses unique temperaments that distinguishes him/herself from other humans. These temperaments interact with the environment throughout the developmental stages of an individual to form and establish relatively stable personality patterns. These patterns of personal profile further entail preferences that determine people’s life-styles (behavioral and cognitive priorities).

Consider the following…

We all come in different SHAPES and SIZES.
We all have STRENGTHS and weaknesses.

What’s right for one person may not be right for another.

There are things that are important to me, that you don’t care about at all!

And sometimes your behavior doesn’t make any sense to me.

But I want for us to understand each other, and communicate well,

because we live together in the same world.

I know I can’t expect you to want the same things that I want.

We are not the same person, so we will not always see things the same way.

I have my own Thoughts and my own Ideas,

that may or may not fit into your vision of who I should be.

A caring teacher knows and attests to the following fact about every student in his/her classroom…

Each child is unique and has unique needs that they express in unique ways. Each child will become an original adult with their own STRENGTHS and weaknesses. Sometimes we know what’s best for our kids and sometimes we just think we do! We can’t expect our kids to want the same things we want, or to behave the same way that we behave. By learning more about our children’s personalities, we can HELP them develop their strengths, overcome their weaknesses, and become independent, happy adults.

There are basically 16 personality types that teachers commonly deal with in the classroom. They are:

* ISTJ – The Duty Fulfillers
* ESTJ – The Guardians
* ISFJ – The Nurturers
* ESFJ – The Caregivers
* ISTP – The Mechanics
* ESTP – The Doers
* ESFP – The Performers
* ISFP – The Artists
* ENTJ – The Executives
* INTJ – The Scientists
* ENTP – The Visionaries
* INTP – The Thinkers
* ENFJ – The Givers
* INFJ – The Protectors
* ENFP – The Inspirers
* INFP – The Idealists

Personality Types

With such a variety of personality types, it is impossible to treat each student as a part of a ‘whole’ that fits into a single mold. The classroom should be a place where students get an opportunity to explore and expand their personality traits and enhance their potential. The final aim of all educational endeavor is the development of the ‘whole’ person (which entails an individual’s personality – overall structure of his/her existence). If students are not provided with this opportunity, their development will be ‘skewed’ toward intellectual growth without much progress in all other important areas of living and functioning. Is this kind of development worth working for? Definitely NOT!

Click on any of the 16-personality-types link above and see for yourself the many positive traits an individual of a particular personality profile possesses. This is a clear indication that students come into the classroom with immense potential and great personal resources. These must be harnessed to maximinze the present and future functionality of students. Failure to do so will prove to be a significant waste of human resources on the part of a teacher.

A caring teacher takes the time and makes the effort to KNOW his/her students (as accurately and comprehensively as possible) before providing educational or psychological intervention. Having a proper knowledge about A STUDENT (“who he/she really is?”) is the pre-requisite for dealing effectively and meaningfully with him/her. When this takes place, students will benefit both academically and socio-emotionally in the classroom.

Ask yourself the following question today, “How much do I really know my students to be able to deal with them in a personal and genuine manner?” When you can answer this question without much difficulty, you are on your way to becoming a caring teacher at heart and in practice!

Copyright May 2006 by Dr. Edward Roy Krishnan,

Here Comes the Principal!

Have you ever been threatened to be taken to the principal’s office when you misbehaved at school? Many of us (when we were school-going kids) would do almost anything to avoid trips to the principal’s office simply because they were too scary. A visit to the principal’s office is often a nightmare to students. The scenario continues even up to this day.

When I was young and energetic (elementary school age), I loved cycling. My parents bought a bicycle for me and allowed extensive rides during the day, and sometimes, in the night. However, they quickly realized that I was becoming too attached to the bicycle. I started neglecting my studies. As all parents do, they had to intervene. They took the bicycle and hid it in one of the rooms when I was sleeping one night. When I got up in the morning, they told me that the bicycle was in the ‘other’ room and that the room was now being guarded by ghosts. I believed in them and thereafter, never went anywhere close to the bicycle. I avoided even the sight of the ‘other’ room because it produced a lot of fear in my heart.

Whenever I recall this experience, I somehow associate it with the experience of visiting a principal’s office. Why? Because both elicit the same amount of fear and cause intense anxiety and discomfort.

A principal is the leader of an educational institution. An educational institution is essentially a human system developed to nurture and equip young people to become functional members of the society. However, the role of a principal has been viewed and carried out on the basis of ‘crude’ authority, even at the cost of instilling fear in students and teachers. When fear dominates the system, the processes of teaching and learning are ‘delayed’.

Educators often wonder why a school struggles to make any progress in spite of various intervention extended to the people involved in its operation. However, a careful examination of relationships among people in the school will reveal that the leader him/herself is not demonstrating care and concern for his/her own ‘sheep’. Instead of being emotionally involved with them, he/she constantly detaches him/herself from them to preserve the existing professional distance. In the end, the principal fails to obtain the confidence and trust of the very people he/she attempts to lead toward success and accomplishment (of various institutional and educational goals).

The principals that I came across so far display the same kind of ‘distorted’ attitude and about their job description. They usually feel that they are supposed to be hardhearted and stern in order to ‘push’ people and get the job done! They tend to be stony, unsympathetic, unemotional, and separated from the relational realities of the school life. At their best, they SCARE students and teachers, thinking that they portray a positive view about themselves and their position of leadership by doing so.

After all these years of schooling and teaching, I finally met with a principal (who is the Chief Administrator of the Satya Sai School, Lopburi, Thailand) who is different from all other principals. I would personally recommend him as an exemplary principal for schools worldwide. He is the honorable Dr. Art-Ong Jumsai Na Ayudhya. I had the privilege of meeting with him to deliver a complimentary copy of my first book How to Become a Caring Teacher. During my visit, many students stopped by him, gave him a big smile, greeted him with a hug, and talked to him about their lives, before continuing with their daily activities. He responded to them with love and genuine care. It was evident that both students and teachers were attracted to him. He was not scary. Instead, he was so comforting that students and teachers were enthralled about being with him. They shared their concerns with him without any reservation.

A Caring Principal
The Caring Principal

Educators like Dr. Art-Ong Jumsai make visits to the principal’s office more joyful and less anxiety-provoking. If principals thought that order and productivity can be improved by being impersonal with students and teachers, they ought to think again. It is their existing approach to leadership that is causing inefficiency in all areas of the school system. Once principals learn that a personal and genuine relationship with students and teachers yield a significant success in the area of teaching, learning, and school governance, they will want their offices to be the most visited and least feared in the whole school.

Until then, the principal is the most feared person at schools everywhere!

When I was studying in high school, the principal of the school would go for rounds at least twice a day (or whenever he got tired being in his office). He would announce his rounds by intentionally shaking a big bunch of keys. When they keys knocked each other, they made a loud chattering sound. Whenever students and teachers heard this sound, they knew that the principal was around. They would quickly get themselves together and put up an act just to please the ‘passing’ head of the institution. Once he was gone, things were back to square one!

Every time someone says, “Here comes the principal,” students and teachers respond to the statement with fear. When fear drives students and teachers, they only thing they can think of doing is to deceive a principal into believing that everything was ‘okay’, when in actual fact, it is not okay!

Caring principals dispel fear and instill trust in students and teachers to enhance teaching and learning experiences.

Copyright May 2006 by Dr. Edward Roy Krishnan,

Losing the Battles, Winning the War!

It was a hectic day for everyone. Students were trying their best to pay attention to what was happening in the class. At the same time, some of them couldn’t help but flip through the pages a textbook for another class. Their test was scheduled in the afternoon on the same day.

As usual, the teacher wanted students to participate in group discussions and contribute to the overall teaching-learning process. However, one particular student was not really excited about doing this. For her, the test in the afternoon was more important than being engaged in a cooperative learning activity (she probably didn’t prepare for the test earlier). The student behaved as if she wanted to communicate the following to the teacher and others in the class:

“Don’t trouble me. All of you should be happy that I am not absent from the class; at least I am not as bad as those who skip classes to prepare for another test!”

Somehow, this got through to the teacher. She noticed that the student intentionally avoided work and remained uncooperative, depriving others (in the group) of vital learning opportunities. Her countenance indicated annoyance. She continued revising for her test in spite of becoming increasingly aware that the teacher was noticing her moves (by this time, others who didn’t prepare for the test decided that they will have to face the consequence of procrastination, and quit ‘serving two masters’).

The teacher tried to convey her displeasure for what was happening through non-verbal facial expressions and gestures, and reinforced it with verbal messages (very sparingly). However, the student pretended not to understand these messages and carried on with her own agenda. Tension arose; it was felt by both students and the teacher. The situation could have exploded at any moment. Being familiar with the ways of affective teaching, the teacher raised a white flag and rested her case. The student walked out of the class that day feeling like a winner. Others in the class felt sympathetic toward the teacher. They felt that the ‘stubborn’ student was impolite to treat the teacher the way she did. The teacher however, remained calm and did not display any hatred (or anger) toward the student.

Later that week, the same student paid a surprise visit to the teacher in the office. The teacher greeted the student with a smile and asked if she could be of any assistance. After a short silence, the student opened up and told the teacher that she was very sorry for the way she behaved in the class. She added that she didn’t mean to act rudely. Toward the end of their meeting, the teacher also came to know that the student was having her monthly menstrual cycle and couldn’t help but get easily irritated.

stubborn student.jpg

For the teacher, the reasons didn’t really matter. Before any of this could happen, she had already decided that she would remain ‘a caring teacher’ no matter what, even in the most hopeless and helpless situations. She was prepared for many such emergencies. She has firmly decided that she will handle every crisis (in the classroom) by applying the principles of affective teaching.

Caring teachers may lose battles. The battles lost in the classroom serve as opportunities to foster students’ psychological well-being. When two egos clash, one has to become subservient to the other (in all crises, only one ego wins). Usually, the injury caused to a weaker ego is not easily cured. Thus, a caring teacher (who presumably possesses a stronger ego) ‘chooses’ to let his/her ego be ‘punched’ in order to allow the weaker ego of a student remain in-tact and eventually become stronger. When teachers contend to prove that they possess stronger ego (which is unnecessary), they engage in ‘ego-slashing’ that consequently pulls students’ self-esteem to a significant low! When this happens, a teacher wins the battles, but loses the war.

A caring teacher is focused on winning the war! What do I mean by this? In the example of the situation presented above, the student went back to the teacher because she realized that the teacher was not her enemy. Although she made a mistake, she could still approach the teacher and vent her feelings. If the teacher focused on winning the battle (the situation) she would have lost the student, forever! Teachers who ‘fight’ with their students may win battles in the classroom. However, these teachers will eventually LOSE all their students! When a teacher loses his/her students, he/she has lost the war.

A caring teacher always wins the war. Initially students might despise a caring teacher (this is not unusual because students become confused when a teacher suddenly cares for them – sadly, students are not used to being cared for at school). But with time, caring teachers harvest the greatest reward for their sacrifice and effort – winning the trust of every student!

Copyright May 2006 by Dr. Edward Roy Krishnan,

Keep Learning!

When a rocket gets launched into the space, the whole world gets excited about it (regardless of which country sends it ‘up’). Everyone is eager on obtaining up-to-date and detailed information about the voyage. People follow every move and development of the space shuttle in the TV and newspaper until it returns to earth once again.

Scientific breakthrough, great and small, draws the attention of many. New knowledge and discoveries in the fields of natural and physical sciences, psychology, medicine and health, and business are received and celebrated with enthusiasm. They are indeed appreciated and more such discoveries are encouraged from time to time.

Sadly, the aforementioned experience does not hold true for educators and others in the school system. New ideas and discoveries to improve teaching and learning in the classroom are either discarded, or heavily criticized. Usually, innovation in the field of education is dismissed as being ‘nothing much than idealistic scheme with no apparent positive outcomes’. This prejudice precedes an attempt to investigate the validity and effectiveness of a new idea proposed. In the end, many such useful thoughts for significant educational reformation and advancement are completely ignored and prematurely rejected.

Although education in general makes ‘believers’ out of people, teacher education has successfully made ‘skeptics’ out of teachers. These teachers are narrow-minded and unwilling to learn. They are afraid of exposing themselves to new ideas. Often, they give excuses. They rationalize (a form of defense mechanism) saying that they have enough to do, they are not interested because they are learning something else, they almost retiring, they have tried it and didn’t find it useful, they can’t afford it, the administrators are not supportive, etc. These excuses are baseless. They reflect a childish approach to dealing with the profession of teaching. They echo the following internal dialogue of an apathetic teacher:

“I am satisfied with what I am doing now. Don’t trouble me. I am too lazy for anything new!”

The underlying attitude toward continual learning makes the difference. If teachers hold a positive attitude toward life-long learning (not just for personal growth, but also to improve teaching), they will not waste their time and energy formulating these excuses in the first place. Instead, they will spend the same energy to investigate and learn new things to enhance teaching, on a daily basis.

Caring teachers are passionate about familiarizing themselves with innovative ideas that could significantly address and solve various problems in teaching. When they are unsure about a new method or theory, they give themselves some time and try it out anyway. They do not dismiss the method or theory before testing it in actual classroom settings and evaluating (for themselves) the effectiveness and usefulness of such innovation. In other words, caring teachers are true learners!

Unlike other teachers who would rather choose to go on with existing ill-practices and conflicts in the classroom, caring teachers continually seek for ways to make changes and take advantage of latest educational inventions (in the form of ideas, principles, theories, materials, methods, etc.).

Some teachers are indifferent to educational innovation because they fear success. These teachers know that learning and implementing new teaching practices will result in constructive experiences at school (for both the teacher and students). Success in teaching usually means more responsibilities. A teacher who holds the ‘I don’t care’ attitude toward his/her profession does not accept additional responsibilities, even when he/she knows that his/her contributions are needed and appreciated. He/she would shun responsibilities and do as minimum as possible as a teacher, simply because he/she fears that his/her accomplishments might make him/her more useful.

There are others who reject new ideas and suggestions to improve teaching on the basis of pride (the number one cause for a teacher’s downfall). Although teachers do not directly voice their abhorrence (toward learning something new related to teaching and learning) in the public, meeting and talking to many teachers (across the world) have helped me realize that teachers (especially the ‘not so effective’ ones) engage in the following internal dialogue:

“I know it all. I have been teaching for many years now. Who are you to teach me about teaching?”

When I first heard about Highly Effective Questioning (HEQ), I was arrogant too. I thought to myself: “Why learn and use another method, a rigorous one for that matter, when we already have many nicey-nice methods?”

Later, after learning about HEQ in detail and utilizing it several times, I was amazed at how students were encouraged to learn and think for themselves using systematic and progressive questioning. Had I dismissed HEQ as merely another idealistic thought, I would have remained ignorant about a very powerful tool that makes learning intentional and effective. Moreover, my willingness to learn HEQ has brought much personal and professional reward. More importantly, it has given me the privilege of acquaintance and friendship with the founder of the method itself (Dr. Ivan Hannel) – which for me, is the most valuable reward of all!

Ivan Picture 717.jpg

Personally, I have learned through several experiences that being open-minded to new learning is essentially more fruitful than deciding to avoid new territories of knowledge to improve classroom practices. However, we are beings of choice. Thus, no one can actually force you and me to do this. All I want to do is to encourage you to learn new things as you go on with your profession as a teacher.

If you truly desire to become a caring teacher, you will choose to do what I have chosen to do, over and over again…learn and keep learning!

Copyright May 2006 by Dr. Edward Roy Krishnan,

Intrapersonal Intelligence and Affective Teaching

multiple-intelligence.jpgIntelligence has been the most important predictor of success at school and work. However, the traditional viewpoint about intelligence has come under attack in recent times. The traditional concept of intelligence has lost its significance. Intelligence (previously defined and measured as an index of abilities in linguistic and logical-mathematically reasoning) is no longer viewed as a ‘singular’ factor that influences accomplishments in other areas of life. This change in thinking was further bolstered by the theory of Multiple Intelligence, proposed by a Harvard University professor, Dr. Howard Gardner.

Today, intelligence is seen as a composite of a range of abilities and talents that work interdependently toward ‘humanizing’ an individual, in various settings.

Without doubt, we can easily recognize the types of intelligence teachers possess. Some teachers are strong in one or more areas of intelligence compared to others. Nevertheless, each type of intelligence interacts with one or several other type(s) to make adjustment and improvement (in teaching and life in general) possible. Sometimes, a particular area of strength complements another strong point.

To begin with, all teachers possess a fairly good level of intelligence in the following areas (a combination of a few of them):

  1. Linguistic intelligence (“word smart”):
  2. Logical-mathematical intelligence (“number/reasoning smart”)
  3. Spatial intelligence (“picture smart”)
  4. Bodily-Kinesthetic intelligence (“body smart”)
  5. Musical intelligence (“music smart”)
  6. Interpersonal intelligence (“people smart”)
  7. Intrapersonal intelligence (“self smart”)
  8. Naturalist intelligence (“nature smart”)

Most of the types of intelligence listed above make a teacher effective. However, a caring teacher possesses two types of intelligence that makes him/her essentially affective. They are the interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligence.

Although most of us possess average or above average interpersonal intelligence, the same is not true for intrapersonal intelligence. A teacher might possess different types of intelligence that would make him/her effective. He/she might even score high on an interpersonal intelligence scale, making him/her relatively affective. However, intrapersonal intelligence is something everyone, born as humans, struggle to attain in spite of being successful in other areas of life. This is because it is difficult, if not impossible, to improve something as intimate and personal as one’s own ‘self’ (inability to conquer ‘self’ is the greatest challenge posed to any human; making the ‘self’ one’s greatest enemy). Nevertheless, a truly affective teacher is one who possesses a high level of intrapersonal intelligence, along with other types of intelligence.


What is intrapersonal intelligence? It refers to having an understanding of yourself, of knowing who you are, what you can do, what you want to do, how you react to things, which things to avoid, and which things to gravitate toward. It indicates our cognitive ability to understand and sense our ‘self’. Intrapersonal intelligence allows us to tap into our being – who we are, what feelings we have, and why we are the way we are.

A strong intrapersonal intelligence can lead to high self-esteem, self-enhancement, and strength of character that can be used to solve internal problems (pre-requisite for dealing effectively with external problems). Conversely, a weak intrapersonal intelligence can lead to negative self-image, apathy, lack of motivation, low need for achievement, neglect of mental health and a variety of unsound behavioral and psychological experiences. These negative experiences prevent one from relating ‘humanely’ with others.

Clearly, a caring teacher’s role to initiate and continue to encourage the positive development of self-esteem, self-enhancement, and strength of character in students cannot be accomplished if he/she does not possess these qualities. Naturally, students are attracted to a teacher who possesses a high level of intrapersonal intelligence. Students are pulled toward a teacher who understands him/herself and tend NOT to ‘put a monkey wrench in the works’. This type of a teacher knows what he/she can do and what he/she cannot do. He/she is happy with who he/she is and does not attempt to please everyone for external approval and recognition (the unrealistic and unhealthy desire to please everyone is one of the major causes of misery and happiness in many people).

Caring teachers do not suffer from low self-esteem. They do not talk ill about others. They constantly attempt to look for the ‘good’ in people. They hold an overall cheerful and positive view about life. They are in touch with their inner selves. In the face of a problem (even a personal one), a caring teacher does not engage in defense mechanisms, such as avoidance, denial, repression, etc. He/she owns the problem and responsibly addresses the issue at hand right away.

Further, a caring teacher does not fear making mistakes because he/she always learns from them and moves forward. He/she is not threatened by others’ comments about him/herself. However, he/she is smart enough to pay attention to suggestions that help to improve his teaching and relationship with students and colleagues. A caring teacher is not threatened by others’ successes. He/she does not get jealous. Instead, he/she constantly seeks to share in others’ victories and sincerely encourages them to become ever better.

A caring teacher’s intrapersonal intelligence is noticeably reflected in the way he/she deals with his/her students. A caring teacher engages in deliberate thought patterns and behaviors that demonstrate compassion, understanding, trust, and respect for his/her students in all teaching-learning situations. A caring teacher might experience the worst difficulty in life and still handle his/her students with a big (genuine) smile. This is possible because he/she has spent substantial time examining who he/she is and what he/she values as a teacher!

Our beloved Mother Teresa could condescend and help the destitute because she personally ‘saw God in every human being’. When students are viewed in this manner, it is difficult to decide NOT to become a caring teacher! Mother Teresa is listed as one of the few who possessed an extraordinary level of intrapersonal intelligence. She made use of this ability to make a difference in the lives of thousands of children and women. Similarly, caring teachers aspire and strive to become ‘self-smart’ for the sake of providing maximum benefit for students!

Copyright May 2006 by Dr. Edward Roy Krishnan,

The Golden Rule vs. Meetings Students’ Needs

The Golden Rule

The golden rule, “treat others as you would like others to treat you” is applicable and necessary in a variety of settings. However, when it comes to teaching affectively, the principle does not fit the ‘job description’.

I came to this conclusion after much reflection. I say this because there seems to be a contradiction between a prominent educational thought that says: “teachers need to look into the individual needs of every student and address them” and another equally significant ideology that promotes the act of “treating others as one would like to be treated”. Personally, I feel that it is inappropriate to attempt to uphold both these principles concomitantly. As caring teachers, we either endorse the former or the latter.

Although teachers can perform both the tasks mentioned above simultaneously, the outcome of such a practice is not helpful. An illustration would help us understand this proposition.

As a person, I do not like to be forced to do things. I shun those who impose rules and regulations on me. I keep a distance from ‘law-makers’. This does not mean that I do not appreciate procedures and orderly way of functioning. However, when things are imposed rather than discussed and agreed upon, I feel overly controlled, and psychologically bullied.

Further, because I love myself, I protect ‘me’ from the presence and influence of such people. By staying away from them, I am doing a favor to my ‘self’ (that I love dearly)!

Can I treat students the way I would like others to treat me? In this case, I would not ‘require’ students to do things (that they dislike or not used to doing) because I wouldn’t appreciate anyone else doing that to me. However, when it comes to teaching and learning in the classroom, there are things that students ‘must do’ (like engaging in useful educational experiences!). It is a teacher’s duty to make sure that EVERY student benefits from such experiences, in spite of their unwillingness to do so.

But if I treat them as I would like to be treated, then I might become comfortable with the fact that I have upheld the principle of “treating students as I would like them to treat me” (I feel proud that I am not ‘forcing’ them to do things that they don’t like), and in the process, thoughtlessly overlook the principle of “meeting the students’ need” to acquire useful educational experiences. One such ‘useful educational experiences’ is the experience of engaging in active questioning.

Not long ago, I had the privilege of attending a series of workshops conducted by Dr. Ivan Hannel, the founder of Highly Effective Questioning (HEQ) teaching method. The workshops were held at different schools in the state of California. Teachers and administrators who attended these workshops seemed to be happy in the thought that they were caring toward their students. Their care was supposedly reflected in the decision not to ‘push’ students to engage in questioning if they didn’t want to. (Sadly, I held similar a view until I met Dr. Hannel and learned the importance of questioning!)

Ivan Hannel - HEQ

However, Dr. Hannel repeatedly warned the audience at the workshops that students need to be engaged in highly effective questioning to train them to become critical thinkers and take responsibility for their own learning. This is an essential skill required in the new millennium. Every student graduating from the school system needs to be a critical thinker if he/she is to survive in a highly knowledgeable global society.

A caring teacher knows what is good and right for his/her students. A caring teacher steadily works toward providing and instilling in students constructive educational experiences in spite of all odds. Most often, a caring teacher’s behaviors do not reflect the principle of “treating others as one would like to be treated” because this principle clearly compromises the more important task of teaching; fulfilling every student’s educational and socio-emotional need(s), in a way that prepares them to face the challenges of the future!

Copyright April 2006 by Dr. Edward Roy Krishnan,

‘Understanding’ Students

It’s easy to say, “Teachers must understand their students and fulfill their needs on a daily basis.” But what does the act of ‘understanding students’ entail? If it is as easy as it is taught and learned in teachers’ training colleges, why is it still seen as an uncommon practice at schools?

Being understood gives rise to a sense of acceptance and belonging. It is an essential human need for survival and growth. It removes the frustration of being misperceived.

On the other hand, when people misunderstand us, their construal of ‘who we are’ become distorted. The image that we want to portray to others is inaccurately projected. Consequently, the feeling of being misunderstood creates an acute discomfort and the desire to remove oneself from social situations.

Understanding Students 2

Therefore, ‘understanding a student’ is only possible when a teacher accurately perceives and accepts the student’s true self. This is a challenging task, especially if a teacher is required to ‘understand’ twenty or more ‘selves’ all at one time, on a daily basis! Nevertheless, it is a task that a caring teacher performs, steadily!

According to Social Psychology, humans attempt to reduce the usage of mental energy while engaging in social interactions by utilizing mental shortcuts known as ‘heuristics’ (to ease social cognition). These mental shortcuts serve as ‘rules of thumb’ to help people construe meaning from a myriad of social situations and stimuli they are exposed to. Heuristics are used to accomplish the following, in social interactions:

  1. Making judgments about an individual’s group membership (e.g.: “Indians eat spicy food. You are an Indian. You eat spicy food.”)
  2. Making judgments about something or someone with whatever information that comes to mind easily (e.g.: “Tsunami affected Indonesia very badly. Indonesia is still recovering from the aftermath of the Tsunami.” – we tend to forget other countries that might be facing similar difficulties because the news media rigorously publicized the effects of Tsunami in Indonesia, and failed to feature the problems in other countries affected by the Tsunami)

Although heuristics are useful for human functioning, taking the effects of such mental shortcuts for granted, and engaging in them without a deliberate reflection, can pose adverse repercussion for the people involved in an interaction. When a teacher solely relies on mental shortcuts to learn about and relate to his/her students, the teaching-learning relationship does not involve true ‘understanding’.

There are no short-cuts for wanting to genuinely understand students in the classroom. Teachers need to take the time and make the effort to get involved in the process of familiarizing themselves with students and their lives in order to understand and cater for their every need. Unwillingness to do so will only communicate indifference and a lack of care on the part of a teacher!

Teachers who rely on mental shortcuts to make decisions (or form judgments) about ‘who their students really are’ might engage in prejudiced thinking, discriminate, and display biases in all aspects of teaching. This is dangerous because a classroom characterized by prejudice, discrimination and bias is a classroom that students fear to attend and learn.

A caring teacher carefully ‘studies’ each student and construes meaning about his/her ‘self’ as accurately as possible. A caring teacher does not engage in and conform to stereotypical thinking patterns that are usually unfounded and negative.

Understanding Students

Understanding students involves ‘knowing’ them. Genuine knowing is possible when teachers learn to relate to students in a more personal way, without relying on their mental shortcuts (to save energy that would be wasted anyway?). Instead, a caring teacher, lets time and relationship reveal ‘who a student really is’ and appreciates him/her as a person!

Examples of instances when heuristics work against relationships in the classroom:

  1. When a teacher concludes that all students from low socio-economic background would not do well in the classroom
  2. When a teacher associates ‘intelligence’ with good looks
  3. When a teacher judges a student’s personality traits based on his/her ethnic background
  4. When a ‘male’ teacher decides that no amount of effort would help a ‘female’ student to excel in science or math
  5. When a teacher conveniently punishes ‘male’ students because they are supposedly ‘violent’ and aggressive by nature

Copyright April 2006 by Dr. Edward Roy Krishnan,

Does ‘Caring’ Make a Teacher Popular?

Research Designs Class

In life, we do many things to secure the attention of others around us. This attention indicates that we are accepted and appreciated. It further tells us that our thoughts and actions are approved and recognized as being worthy of notice. Similarly, a teacher does many things in the classroom to get the attention of other colleagues, administrators, and students. This is a natural tendency of any teacher. In fact, it is a ‘growth need’ that must be fulfilled for meaningful living. It is not unusual for teachers to expect to be appreciated and approved of their classroom practices. The positive attention given to teachers serves as a motivator to help them find meaning for being a teacher!

Some teachers expect more than just simple attention. They strive to become the ‘center of attention’ in the classroom and at school. They desire to bask in the undivided attention and adoration of everyone in the school toward themselves. They do everything possible to attain this goal and keep it that way. Sometimes, all other goals as a teacher become less important than the need to have everyone’s attention on oneself and gain popularity!

However, the effort to become a caring teacher does not lead to popularity. The path takes a teacher to a place where something more beautiful than popularity comes to view.

Popularity requires that teachers let go of some of their deep rooted principles and compromise in giving students and others ‘what they want or desire’ (with no apparent benefit for them or others). However, a caring teacher doesn’t give students and others with what they want or desire. Instead, he continually strives to provide them with ‘what is good for them’ (clearly beneficial and uplifting for them and others). In other words, a caring teacher pushes students and others to do the ‘right thing’. He does not do things to please each and every member of the school to gain popularity.

Where does all this take a caring teacher? Well, although the path does not lead a caring teacher to become popular, it does lead him to become a RESPECTED individual.

Respect is gained when popularity is sacrificed! A caring teacher strives to gain the respect of his students and others around him. He doesn’t worry about popularity and pleasing everyone to become the center of attention. By doing so, a caring teacher upholds principles and truths that are universally empowering and permanently affecting people to uphold ‘humanity’.

Respect gained in the classroom, by a caring teacher, is a more stable indicator of positive teaching/learning experiences and greater academic achievements at school. Popularity on the other hand, dies as quickly as a teacher loses his temper and decides that he is tired of pleasing people and fulfilling their ‘silly’ needs.

Copyright April 2006 by Dr. Edward Roy Krishnan,

The ‘Rose Model’: Caring for Students is Possible!

Do we have the Time to Care for Students?

Teaching poses a variety of challenges. Teachers are responsible and accountable to many people, institutions, and organizations, be it formal or informal. They have to plan for, prepare, and implement a myriad of demanding tasks. Instructing, grading, reporting, disciplining, supporting, and communicating are few of the many tasks expected from a teacher. if this is the case, where do teachers find the time to care for students? As we know, care is a deliberate, effortful, and timestaking process. If teachers are not relieved from some of their existing responsibilities, can they be expected to become caring toward their students?

Perhaps the problem lies in the question itself. Can teachers be relieved from their existing responsibilities? It is evident that responsibilities only add up. Any teacher would agree that the demands to engage in more and more responsibilities at school are inevitable. So, this is not an option to consider. In fact, if a teacher fails to perform any of these, he is likely to be reprimanded and possibly fired! Reducing work load isn’t a clear way out from this situation.

The act of caring shouldn’t be seen and considered to operate at the ‘periphery’ of the act of teaching. It would be wise and practical to integrate the act of caring for students in ALL THAT A TEACHER DOES, whether it is inside or outside of the classroom. As I said in the book, “How to Become a Caring Teacher”, students will not trust a teacher who teaches something and does something totally contrary to what he teaches. The act of caring should color every activity, every atmosphere, every person, every responsibility, and every interaction in and outside of the classroom

This is possible through the “rose model” to classroom teaching and interaction. If you take a closer look at a rose flower, you will realize that the petals are closely intertwined. A daisy, on the other hand, has petals that are separated and distinctly visible. So, in the daisy, one sees each petal; whereas, in the rose, one sees the whole flower without regard to individual petals.

A caring teacher’s responsibilities (like the many petals in a rose) are coated with his ability to care for his students. Every act and effort made in the classroom are marked by the intention to cater to the ‘humanity’ of an individual student. Thus, following the rose model, ‘care’ is at the core of everything a teacher does.

Does caring for students take time?

Yes it does, if a teacher considers ‘caring’ as one of the many responsibilities (the daisy model) imposed on him.

Daisy Model - Considers Caring for Students and Added Burden

No it doesn’t, if a teacher considers ‘caring’ as the ingredient that holds all other responsibilities together and give meaning and efficiency to them!

Rose Model - Provides Time to Care for Students

The choice…is YOURS!

Copyright April 2006 by Dr. Edward Roy Krishnan,