Operationalizing Critical/Radical Care [Un(un)]essay)

So you know how at the beginning of the semester Rosa posed the question ‘How do you measure radical care?’ and I was feeling spicy and responded ‘Should we???’? Remember that? Okay well I am about to be the biggest hypocrite on the PLANET because that’s exactly what this project is.

Measuring Critical/Radical Care

My [un(un)]essay) is connected to the qualifying paper requirement I have in the sociology department. We have to write a paper of publishable quality in order to move on to level 2. So for this project I am using data from the NYC School Survey to try to operationalize an aspect of critical and radical care that I think is very important: Empathy. Specifically, I am thinking of critical empathy and critical perspective-taking. I am basically trying to figure out how well teachers can take up their students perspectives on various issues of social justice and social inclusion in their schools. If you peep the table below, it indicates the questions from the NYC school survey that I am looking at to answer my question.

Variable namestudent questionteacher question
Disability InclusivityAt this school students with disabilities are included in all school activities (lunch, class trips, etc.).At this school, students with disabilities are included in all school activities (lunch, class trips, etc.).
Culturally Responsive PedagogyMy teachers use examples of students’ different cultures/backgrounds/families in their lessons to make learning more meaningful for me.I am able to receive support around how to incorporate students’ cultural and linguistic backgrounds in my practice.
Relevance to Students’ Everyday LifeIn general, my teachers make their lessons relevant to my everyday life experiences.I am able to use my  students’ prior knowledge to make my lessons relevant to their everyday life
Curricular DiversityIn general, my teachers present positive images of people from a variety of races, ethnicities, cultures, and backgroundsI am able to adapt instruction to ensure it represents all cultures/backgrounds positively
Adaptive and Responsive Teaching PracticeMy teachers explain things a different way if I don’t understand something in class.I am able to
modify instructional activities and materials to meet the developmental needs and learning interests of all my students.
Fair DisciplineDiscipline is applied fairly in my school.Discipline is applied to students fairly in my school.
School Safety AgentsSchool safety agents promote a safe and respectful environment at this schoolSchool Safety Agents promote a safe and respectful environment at this school.
Bullying, Harassment, IntimidationAt this school students harass, bully, or intimidate other students. (also lots of sub questions about specific kinds of bullying/harassment)At this school students harass, bully, or intimidate other students.

Now, using the NYC School Survey responses to the above questions, I created an index of similarity based on the percent of teachers and students who agreed or strongly agreed with these statements. The formula for that similarity measure is 1-|students agree-teachers agree|. The closer to 1.00 on the similarity measure, the more students and teachers agreed on that statement. The closer to 0 on the similarity measure, the more students and teachers disagreed. For example, I had one school where 86% of teachers agreed that they could adapt instruction to make sure it respectfully portrayed everyone’s cultural background AND 86% of the students also agreed that their teachers presented positive representations of many cultures. So the score for that measure was 1.00.

I am interpreting this index as a measure of critical perspective-taking. If the teachers at a school are better at critical perspective taking, then they will have similar responses to their students on these 8 aspects of school climate and pedagogical practices. In other words, they will have a greater similarity index outcome.

Why critical empathy and critical perspective-taking?

When I was first introduced to the ideas of critical care, radical care, and armed love there were two components that stuck out to me the most. The first being the necessity of teachers as political beings. I loved that there was a concept that loudly proclaimed that teachers should be political, they should talk to their students about social issues and politics, and they should actively fight for their students’ best interests. The second reason I was drawn to these concepts is because it emphasized the importance of teachers being deeply empathetic with their students. Authentically empathetic. I believe that empathy (not sympathy) is a powerful catalyst for collectively-oriented and revolutionary change, which for me, is a good thing. So, the theoretical grounding for this project is in these two components of critical care, radical care, and armed love: political teachers and empathetic perspective-taking.

Below I am offering the bits and snippets from our class readings that I am using to theoretically orient my project. (Apologies for another boring table. My brain just works best with tables)

Antrop-Gonzalez and De Jesus2006“This teacher knowledge is crucial because it communicates that adults are aware of and understand the conditions that students live under” (p. 427)

“Students’ cultural world and their structural position must be fully apprehended, with school based adults deliberately bringing issues of race, difference, and power into central-focus. This approach necessitates the abandonment of a color-blind curriculum and a neutral assimilation process.” (p. 430)
Beauboeuf-Lafontant2002“As researchers have sought to address this problem, they have called for teachers to transform themselves into adults who can relate to and thus more effectively teach all children in our schools.” (p. 71)

“If school failure is a result of a “relational breakdown” (Ward, 1995) between teachers and students, where both groups see little in common or shared in purpose, then the academic success of poor, immigrant, and minority children lies very much in the quality of the relationships that their teachers establish with them” (p. 74)

“Political clarity is the recognition by teachers that there are relationships between schools and society that differentially structure the successes and failures of groups of children (Bartolome, 1994). Womanist teachers see racism and other systemic injustices as simultaneously social and educational problems. Consequently, they demonstrate a keen awareness of their power and responsibility as adults to contest the societal stereotypes imposed on children.” (p.77)

“Thus, womanist teachers readily demonstrate their political clarity: With their students, both in deed and in word, they share their understanding of society, an understanding that does not shy away from the reality of domination nor from the existence of resistance struggles against oppression. In essence, loving students means discussing such insights with them, not withholding knowledge
from them” (p.80)

“In other words, their capacity to act morally is based in “the ability to perceive people in their own terms and to respond to need” (Gilligan, 1986, p. 292). It is an intimacy with and not an aloofness from other people that motivates womanist educators to see personal fulfillment in working toward the common good.” (p. 81)

“Furthermore, to see children as innocent and incapable of wondering about the problems of our society is in fact to condemn them to the same despair we have about our social ills.” (p. 83)
Darder2009“He believed it was impossible to teach without educators knowing what took place in their students’ world. “They need to know the universe of their dreams, the language with which they skillfully defend themselves from the aggressiveness of their world, what they know independently of the school, and how they know it”
(Freire, 1998, p. 73). Through such knowledge, teachers could support students in reflecting on their lives and making individual and collective decisions for transforming their world.” (p. 506)
Duncan-Andrade2009“Second, critical hope audaciously defies the dominant ideology of defense, entitlement, and preservation of privileged bodies at the expense of the policing, disposal, and dispossession of marginalized “others.” We cannot treat our students as “other
people’s children” (Delpit, 1995)—their pain is our pain. False hope would have us believe in individualized notions of success and suffering, but audacious hope demands that we reconnect to the collective by struggling along side one another, sharing in the victories and the pain.” (p. 190)

“At the end of the day, effective teaching depends most heavily on one thing: deep and caring relationships. Herb Kohl (1995) describes “willed not learning” as the phenomenon by which students try not to learn from teachers who don’t authentically care about them. The adage “students don’t care what you
know until they know that you care” is supported by numerous studies of effective educators (Akom, 2003; Delpit, 1995; Duncan-Andrade, 2007; Ladson Billings, 1994). To provide the “authentic care” (Valenzuela, 1999) that students require from us as a precondition for learning from us, we must connect
our indignation over all forms of oppression with an audacious hope that we can act to change them.” (p. 191)
Khalifa, Gooden, and Davis2016“Inclusiveness and exclusiveness are at the center of culturally relevant teaching; culturally responsive teachers not only center students’ cultural norms but also their very beings, proclivities, languages, understandings, interests, families, and spaces
(Foster, 1995; Howard, 2003; Ladson-Billings, 1995).” (p. 1288)
Miller, Brown, and Hopson2011“You never get there by starting from there, you get there by starting from some here. This means, ultimately, that the educator must not be ignorant of, underestimate, or reject any of the “knowledge of living experience” with which educands come to school. (1970, p. 58)” (p. 1087)

”However, Freirean dialogue presents an additional contribution to the leadership conversation in its explicit portrayal of dialogue as a dialectic relationship between the oppressed and the oppressors. It depicts leaders as being engaged in a common plight with the people. Their solidarity is cemented by their recognition that they share a common fate—one group’s fuller humanization is necessarily influenced and, in turn, followed by the others.” (p. 1289)
Rivera-McCutchen2012“Teachers who care must also develop an acute understanding of the sociocultural and political contexts that have an impact on the lives of their students. For students of color especially, Rolón-Dow (2005) argues that teachers “must seek to understand the role that race/ethnicity has played in shaping and defining the sociocultural and political conditions of their communities” (p.656)
Rolon-Dow2005“To secure such engagement, teachers must build relationships of care and trust, and within such relationships students and teachers must construct educational objectives cooperatively.” (p. 86)

“to push caring theory beyond a theory centered on interpersonal relationships to a theory that needs grounding in a consideration
of the racialized contextual factors surrounding such relationships.” (p. 87)

“the racial/ethnic differences between them and their teachers affected the amount and type of care teachers offered to them.” (p. 100)

“First, critical care is grounded in a historical and political understanding of the circumstances and conditions faced by minority communities. Second, critical care seeks to expose how racialized beliefs inform ideological standpoints. Finally, critical care translates race-conscious historical and ideological understandings
and insights from counternarratives into authentic relationships, pedagogical practices, and institutional structures that benefit Latino/a students.” (p. 104)

“In this way, critical care calls on educators and schools to reconceptualize their relationships with students in ways that respond to the counterstories about race/ethnicity present in the communities of these students.” (p. 105)

“building relationships of authentic care must move beyond making assumptions about who students are and what their lives are like within their particular communities. Instead, concerted efforts must be made to create sustained interactions that allow students to share their perspectives of how ethnicity, social class, and gender dynamics affect their daily lives.”​ (p.106)

“This tendency to treat the student-teacher relationship in a vacuum created a school environment where it was difficult for students to feel cared for in substantive ways. Critical care is attuned to the differences between students and teachers and calls on teachers to care for students authentically, with an understanding of how these differences can affect relationships.” (p.106)

“To critically care for students, it is also imperative to interrogate
and seek to alter the ways in which educational care is unequally distributed along racial/ethnic lines.” (p. 107)
Tichnor-Wagner and Allen2016“In addition, authentically caring teachers have awareness of the social, cultural, and political contexts of their students, and incorporate that awareness into their teaching
of and interactions with students (Antrop-González & De Jesús, 2006;Beauboeuf-Lafontant, 2002; Rivera-McCutchen, 2012)” (p. 410)
Wilson2015“Hence, caring involves educators being racially conscious when needed, and taking risks to advocate and seek social justice for diverse students. It also requires an emotional investment in
marginalized students’ well-being (Bass, 2012; Beauboeuf-Lafontant,2002; Cooper, 2009a; Thompson, 1998; Wilson et al., 2013). In all, the latter conceptualizations of care are critical because they encompass acts of individual relational care but also urge one to be mindful of the macro level injustices that fuel systemic oppression. Such oppression contributes to the marginalization that affects many students’ lives and treatment
within schools. Critical notions of care are not colourblind like many traditional caring theories; rather, they directly speak to educators being responsive to the needs of racially minoritized students (Cooper, 2009a;Thompson, 1998). (p. 4-5)

“The principal suggested that her core traits as a transformative leader are: promoting ‘trust and honest dialogue—everyone has to feel safe; being open to new ideas; being honest with feedback; and, being willing to be a change agent’” (p.14)

So now what?

Thus far I have some findings that indicate that the radical care measure I made is positively correlated with more positive student outcomes. Below I have listed the outcomes I looked at:

  • Student Attendance
  • Collaborative Teachers Score (NYC DOE measure)
  • Trust Score (NYC DOE measure
  • % of students who feel their teachers respect them
  • % of students who feel they are learning a lot in their classes
  • % of students who feel that their classmates pay attention when they’re supposed to

So as the critical perspective-taking increases so do the above positive outcomes. Cool stuff, yeah? I am still working through the racial and socioeconomic results, but I will be including something that looks at race and class as it related to this critical perspective-taking project.

The reason I am presenting this to you all is because I could use feedback and suggestions! I am curious how convincing the radical care measure is. Do you think this is actually a good way to measure/operationalize critical/radical care? I also STRONGLY WELCOME any literature that you think could help me with this project. Anything related to empathy in teaching, perspective-taking, politically-oriented teaching, etc.

Thank you for taking a look at my project and thank you in advance for any and all recommendations, questions, comments, and snide remarks.

Also, Rosa, I am sorry for being such a hypocrite. Please forgive me.