More on Sarah Fine from yesterday… How much is kindess worth?

Anyone wishing to continue in the Internet buzz around the Washington Post article by Sarah Fine (see yesterday’s post) should also check out Traci at and Michael Doyle.  Everyone agrees that Fine’s problem is a symptom of a larger systemic flaw, but I feel that I must re-emphasize that “caring” and “kindness” are not enough to produce quality learning or sustain oneself through a career. I re-emphasized this on Michael’s blog.

Can we agree on this much?  If passion and kindness was the main fuel of the successful teacher and caring distinguished successful teachers from unsuccessful ones, wouldn’t our schools be filled with loving, selfless veterans.  Anyone at a school like that?  Anyone?  No, our schools are often strife-filled edifices of selfishness and pettiness.

What also is emerging from this is that the star teachers seem to be able to get through it all.  This is Haberman’s main point in the book (see yesterday’s post).  They are kind and persistent through the mess.  If we allow that Fine is kind (and we have no reason to suspect otherwise), then there are other factors still not being considered (like academic freedom or the proper recognition of a good lesson like I mentioned in Michael’s blog.

2 thoughts on “More on Sarah Fine from yesterday… How much is kindess worth?

  1. Yes, as I mentioned yesterday, what is missing is the internal motivation needed to create learning environments worthy of us and our students. Passion for teaching, not desire for teaching, is what keeps us focused on that goal.

    People often attribute failure to external factors, it is a way of feeling better about one’s own self-image (See Weiner and Attribution Theory – great stuff).

    Please read my blog to gain a clearer understanding of what is meant by caring and kindness. I don’t think that any of us who speak of teaching with compassion, caring, and kindness have ever felt or stated that they trump craft (knowledge and skill with pedagogy and curriculum). As I have stated on numerous occasions, I would be un-kind and un-caring if I deigned to be with my students without that knowledge.

    You may want to read Nel Noddings work on the ethic of care as well. She talks about the distinction between being a caring person and care in teaching – an important distinction. This is a good place to start: Caring in Education @

    All of that being said, yes, our schools, for the most part, do need reform in terms of professional development and how teachers are implicated in decision-making processes (a lot of reform IS already being done in that area). However, if we wait for an (external) miracle to happen we will never be able to experience it. As teachers we do have the ability to make change but we can’t just make it, we must be it.

  2. @Tracy, thanks for visiting the blog. I did visit your blog, and I’m its newest subscriber. I was actually glad to find a blog that focuses as much on the “inner teacher” as mine does. My comment about “kindness” was more aimed the general blogosphere; I see too many comments in my reading today that great teaching is “caring.” Your comments about internal motivation are valid, but I fear when too many teachers and edu-types say “caring” they see it too much as a passive feeling, while your explanation correctly terms it as a fuel of action that motivates scholastic change.

    I, also, expect no external miracles. If there is one thing I’ve learned in my short career, it is that great teachers find a way to make their own miracles. I’ve been blessed with two recent principals who allowed me more freedom then others previously did, and I have found my teaching flourishing under those conditions to a significant degree more than they have previously. This is why I emphasize the “freedom” that I cling to so much. That internal motivation engine you and I value needs institutional room.