An IB Learner is ....Caring.

How do we foster caring in our students?

They show empathy, compassion and respect towards the needs and feelings of others.  They have a personal commitment to service, and act to make a positive difference to the lives of others and to the environment.    (from the IB Learner Profile)

“Is there anything else Dr. Markham?” 

“No, thank you so much, that was a huge help”

“I mean, can I help you with that?” He gestures towards my unplanted plant and the huge bag of soil.  “My hands are already dirty,” he continues.

He has already descended and climbed the three flights of stairs twice on this errand.  On the first journey down, he extracted the dead tree from the huge, heavy clay pot, returning with the soil still in the pot.  After hearing the explanation that the soil lacked necessary nutrients for my new plant, he repeated his steps in order to dump the dirt.  Small beads of sweat drip from his temples.  He smiles.  He genuinely wants to help, to finish the task.  He cares.

We tenderly transplant the small tree from its temporary container.  The earthy smell of the soil wafts into the room and it feels good to handle the dirt as we center the plant in the clay pot. My student asks me about the Going Green Group at the school.  He’s sincere in his desire to become part of it, including putting in extra time after school to work on setting up a non-for-profit foundation for the initiative.

Seriously, I’m touched.  It’s so great to see a young man sincerely caring about something.  He is clearly developing this attribute as an IB Learner.

This is in stark contrast to the student who earlier in the week sat on one of the tables in the classroom gazing at the turtle (as many students enjoy doing) and remarked,   “I figure I’ve done my part.  I’ve filled in all the blanks for applications.  I’m going to do the minimum now, you know?” 

How do we foster caring in our students?  How do we help them realize that our part in this world is never actually “done”? 

In an effort to expose our student population to the Going Green initiative of the school, we have begun showing students the short video clip on eco-schools of which our school is a member.  Some students have responded with a sense of caring.  My South Africa trip reached another segment of learners.  That trip fostered a burgeoning sense of caring for the world and environment.   Global Issues Network and Mini United Nations attract the “caring” characteristic in yet other groups of students.  CAS projects can put students into a situation of actually serving others, instilling a sense of care.  Our job as educators isn’t simply about teaching content and helping students acquire skills.  It is so much more.  Hopefully we can also provide exposure to different worthwhile “causes” so that students begin to develop this important learning characteristic, that of caring.  We want them to leave our institutions of learning eager and prepared to invest in truly making the world a better place through their social and environmental influences. How do you foster a sense of caring in teenagers?