The Many Facets of Care in the Language Learning Classroom

December 2023

Teachers care–for our students, for our schools, and for our subjects. In this issue, we take a multi-faceted look at this central component of education: why do we, as humans, care about others; how best can we create a caring classroom that supports our students; and what we should do to support our own well-being as educators. 

Our cover: “Remember that children, marriages, and flower gardens reflect the kind of care they get.”— H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Cover photo by Gantas Vaičiulėnas on Pexels; others from Pixabay & Unsplash

Watch before you read...

We’re wrapping up 2023 by looking at some different ways care is woven into our work as educators. In the Main video, Lisa Mims persuasively explains why teachers should connect with students and care about their emotional wellbeing. In the More podcast episode, Denise Pope talks about different parts of the learning experience—assessment, feedback, office hours, activities and interactions in the classroom—to highlight how instructors can help students feel supported, valued, and connected to their peers. Then, Curtis Kelly gets the ball rolling by introducing the issue.

In the Think Tank, Heather Kretschmer focuses on empathy and outlines activities that foster a caring classroom. Next, Jamie Emerson examines reading disabilities and ways of helping students develop their reading comprehension skills. Eleanor Smith fleshes out an approach that can help students combat their fear of public speaking. Kate Piatkowski writes about how teachers can embrace self-compassion to promote their wellbeing and ultimately their students’ wellbeing.

Don’t miss the PLUS. We are introducing a totally fun website.

Denise Pope

Creating Caring Classrooms: Strategies for Positive Class Environments

Our Thoughts on Care

Care as a Little Recognized Classroom Feature Curtis Kelly

“Care.” A term rarely found in the scientific literature and vague as a Think Tank theme. We discussed changing this title, but decided we would wait and see what came in from the authors first and then decide. I can say now, after reading through this fine collection of articles, that “care” is exactly the right word to use. If you think about it, care is involved in everything we as teachers and our students as learners do.

Think Tank Articles

Creating a Culture of Care in the Language Classroom Heather Kretschmer

Picture yourself walking into your first class on a Monday morning. Imagine you could hear all the thoughts running through your students’ heads. Here’s a sampling of what they’re thinking:

  • “Sooooo tired.”
  • “I hope the teacher doesn’t notice I didn’t do my homework.”
  • “I wish I hadn’t skipped breakfast. I’m hungry.”

Reading Disabilities Jamie Emerson

If you don’t have one, you almost certainly know someone with a reading disability. For instance, five of the key people who attended my wedding have one. The best-known reading disability is, of course, dyslexia and in keeping with this four of my five loved ones are dyslexic. My wife, best man, sister-in-law, and a good friend were all formally diagnosed and struggled deeply with reading at primary school. My younger brother, also at my wedding, wasn’t diagnosed with dyslexia but with something that sounded less precise: speech and language difficulties. He also struggled deeply with reading at primary school.

A Surprising Way to Combat Public Speaking Anxiety Eleanor Smith

Makoto (not his real name) was visibly shaking. The crinkled, trembling A4 list of keywords in his hands was now the focus of the whole class. Not the meticulously designed Canva slide. Not the thoroughly-researched content. His hands. He was shifting uncomfortably from one leg to another as he tried to remember what he was supposed to say next. The class started to shift with him. Everyone was holding their breath.

My heart was breaking for him. This is one of the most proactive, diligent, kind, and humorous university students I’ve had the pleasure to teach. He and his team had worked so hard on this presentation. His growing frustration was palpable. Though Makoto managed to struggle his way through the rest of his part, as he and his group returned to their seats he was visibly upset. It’s a scene that every teacher and student will be familiar with.

From Self-Compassion to Student Success: How Caring for Yourself Can Help Others Kate Piatkowski

When I was still in teacher training, I had an instructor who said to our class: “On a bad day, when everything goes wrong, make sure to go home, grab a whiskey, and think ‘All right. What could I have done better?’ But, on the good days too, you need to go home, grab a whisky, then ask yourself that same question.”

At that time, she was speaking about doing self-reflections on how you conducted your lessons that day, which is an important practice for teachers. But, what was not mentioned was how difficult that can be if you have the tendency to be very critical (like me!) of your really bad days…

Think Tank Plus

Radiooooo Musical Time Machine Think Tank Staff

This is a fun digital tool where users can choose a country and a decade (1900 to the present) to hear music from that place and time period. You can even listen to music of the future in 2070. I liked India 1950.

Call for Contributions: Ideas and Articles Think Tank Staff

Become a Think Tank star! Here are some of the future issue topics we are thinking about. Would you, or anyone you know, like to write about any of these? Or is there another topic you’d like to recommend? Do you have any suggestions for lead-in, or just plain interesting, videos? How about writing a book review? Or sending us a story about your experiences? Contact us.

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The MindBrained Think Tanks+

is produced by the Japan Association for Language Teaching (JALT) Mind, Brain, and Education Special Interest Group (BRAIN SIG). Kyoto, Japan. (ISSN 2434-1002)

Editorial Staff

Stephen M. Ryan                Julia Daley                   Marc Helgesen

             Heather Kretschmer          Curtis H. Kelly            Skye Playsted               

    Jason Walters                               Mohammad Khari



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