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Caring in the classroom

Headshot of Krystyna Nowak-FabrykowskiKrystyna Nowak-Fabrykowski, Ph.D., a professor in Teacher Education and Professional Development Department was recognized at the 18th Annual Book Recognition Event for her book, Different Perspectives on Caring: Making Caring a Metacognitive Activity (with Reflections on the Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic). The book contains many perspectives on caring teachers such as characteristics of caring teachers and children’s view of them, developing caring children, and other reflections on teaching.

After teaching for many years and reflecting on her own experiences, Nowak-Fabrykowski realized that first year teachers play an integral role in setting students up for success. Nowak-Fabrykowski stresses the complicated relationship between caring in teaching and the student/teacher/school environment. She also read Nell Nodding’s book, Happiness and Schooling, and reflected on her question: why are some schools not happy places? Nowak also states, “The pandemic made the situation even worse.”

Nowak-Fabrykowski first started this book in 2011, however, the pandemic created a necessity to revisit the subject with new research findings. A positive effect of the pandemic was people becoming more caring, understanding, compassionate, and empathetic. Nowak says, “Teachers were called heroes, the same as nurses and firefighters, doctors, and all front-line workers. During this time, teachers tried to help children get connected with the world.”

Prior to the pandemic, Nowak-Fabrykowski did a research project, Heroes and Superheroes for Boys and Girls: Same or Different, with 43 children from the ages of three to five. From this study, only two children considered family members to be heroes. For the rest of the children, they thought real people could not be heroes.

Nowak-Fabrykowski hopes the pandemic was able to change children’s perspective on how caring people can be heroes. As for her book, she hopes it will help teachers “reflect on the theory and research on caring as well as their caring practices and plans for developing caring in their students […] and re-examine who they are, who they would like to be and find the necessary resources to achieve their goals.”

This story is brought to you by the Office of Research and Graduate Studies.