Student Response to Dr. Nel Noddings’ Presentation

Nel Nodding’s care theory is a prominent plan for restoration and an excellent resource for building relationships within the school system. It also gives a new understanding of what it means to be a teacher.

Nel Noddings explains her theory as care ethics from a relational standpoint. To understand the central focus of her theory, one must understand the dynamics of interacting relations. In an encounter between two individuals, one individual takes on the “caregiver” role and the other the “cared for” role. The caregiver must listen and attend to the other person. In this role, Noddings describes what she calls “motivational displacement.” During motivational displacement the caregiver puts aside his or her needs in order to care for the other individual. The individual being cared for, also, has responsibilities in this interaction; first he or she must express his or her need to the caregiver in order for the caregiver to help. Secondly, the cared for must give some kind of feedback to the caregiver that encourages his or her self-esteem and motivates him or her to take on a caregiver role in the future. For example, when a teacher gives a lecture, in order for the teacher to continue teaching at an optimal level he or she must receive continuous feedback from his or her students. Examples of feedback may be questions that are asked, laughter when the teacher makes a joke, or even a simple head nod.

Following the logic that the teacher is the caregiver of a classroom, the first task a teacher needs to accomplish in his classroom is making the students feel cared for. This is done by attending to expressed needs of the students and assumed needs of the class (material required to learn). In this way, teachers must learn to be flexible and not too rigid to stray from the lesson plan from time to time by perhaps starting off class with a poem or a special moment they experienced. Noddings warns about overlooking exposure in the classroom. Teachers need to have a large, rich repertoire of ideas depending on what catches the hearts and minds of the students. This idea also suggests that students should be given many choices and different options. In some cases, Noddings suggests that it is a good idea to have the teacher and the students collaboratively come up with the lesson plan and units to be covered in class. In order to plan several different theoretical units and give students’ choices the teacher must be willing to do more work.

The centrality of care and choice Noddings incorporates in her vision of teaching allows room for independence, creativity, and structure that is built around the relationship of a student and a teacher. Seriously understanding that the critical period in a child’s life (no matter social status or history) to become a securely attached individual is the present. The dedicated teacher will act to make the present stimulating and worthwhile.