35 thoughts on “Pedagogy of Kindness

  1. Bill Motz

    Jeff, love your position and passion for helping our students. I agree with you and use the same approach. thanks for sharing. Bill

  2. Suzanne Sawyer

    Bravo! Here, Here! Applause! Yahoo!
    Thank you, Jeff, for sharing your “pedagogy of kindness.” By giving students, colleagues, and everyone who comes into our lives a chance or a listening ear without judgement is what people remember about their experiences and interactions with others.
    May your compassion resonate everywhere!
    Sincerely, Suzanne Sawyer / Library

  3. Jon Ten Brink

    Well put!

  4. Marcia Scherer

    As a nurse educator, I demonstrate caring and compassion. I follow Jean Watson’s Theory of Caring that is a theory within the nursing profession. This has been my staple when teaching and students appreciate the kindness and caring shown to them individually and as a class. I believe most students are trustworthy and I give them the benefit of the doubt and do the same things as you do when applicable. However, when a student or two lies and you catch them in the lie, I have difficulty believing that others may not be doing the same. How do you deal with this?

    1. Jeff Janowick

      Marcia,

      This is a great question, and I will always remember one particular student who started lying to me on the second day of class, and very likely lied to me all semester long about the nature of the problems she was dealing with. At first, I had a lot of sympathy because she was dealing with some serious issues. Over time, I got annoyed and even angry, because she didn’t *need* to lie, but she still did. In the end, I was almost bemused, because it could have all been true, and it could have all been a lie, or anything in between. And I had no idea which it was.

      For me, whether they are lying or not is just not important. I just let that go. I can’t control it, I don’t always know whether (or why) they’re lying, and I’m not sure it matters. I focus on the work–either they do it, or they don’t. That’s the part they can’t lie about.

      I do think that when students lie, it’s because they think they need a good excuse, or because they think the excuse they have isn’t good enough. I try to take that reason away by not asking for an excuse. I just focus on the work.

      That may not translate perfectly for every discipline.

      Jeff

  5. Sean Quinn

    Agreed, Jeff. Kindness and compassion wins.

  6. Susan Henderson

    Yes!

  7. Marita de Leon

    I agree completely. Practicing kindness extends beyond the COVID-19 semester. I’ve been trying to do that also in responses to emails and comments on assignments. I have had to edit my email and comments before I finally send them. I constantly check myself, “Was that kind?” “Oops, that was snarky and sarcastic.” I sleep on requests because I know I usually wake up refreshed and kinder than the night the email was sent, and consequently come up with a fair and kind decision. Thanks for the message, Jeff!

    1. Jeff Janowick

      Marita,
      I think about this as the Abraham Lincoln rule. He would often write harsh responses to letters, and then fold them up and put them in his pocket or desk. After thinking about it, he would write something more polite, generous, or diplomatic.

      I can’t tell you how many times I’ve started an email, and then taken a deep breath and slowly deleted it, before changing the tone and sending something a little more compassionate or understanding.

      There can be something therapeutic about writing something snarky before throwing it away, though….

  8. Van Streak

    Thanks for this, Jeff. I really cannot see any rebuttal to the points you’ve made and I also already do almost everything you mentioned (as I suspect that most of us do).

    A pedagogy of kindness does take time and effort–far beyond what we’re contractually obligated to (whatever that means). It is precisely this kind of commitment from LCC faculty that I think makes LCC a great educational institution and makes me proud to work at LCC. It would be wonderful if *everyone* at LCC practiced this kind of thoughtful kindness in their work–managerial kindness, administrative kindness, support staff kindness–and I know many who do. It may even be the case that this kind of thoughtful kindness and “benefit of the doubt” kind of approach throughout the institution is essential for any one of us to feasibly practice it. And ALL of it ties back to the raison d’ etre of LCC: enabling students from ALL backgrounds to achieve success in their educational goal.

    Kudos to you, Jeff!

  9. Leigh Szedlak

    Thanks for the message. Stay safe!

  10. Suzanne Bernsten

    Your talk is inspiring. What a great reflection on how what we do and learn now can help us be better, more compassionate educators as we move forward.

  11. Celeste Ehm

    Such an encouraging and inspiring message! I know from experience what you say is true. As a college student, I was on the receiving end of my professor’s “pedagogy of kindness” to me. It meant the world to me and was the primary reason I was able to face the following semester and continue on to graduation. Thanks so much for reminding us of how significant an act of kindness can be.

  12. Cheryl K. McCormick

    Jeff,

    Thank you so much!

    I have taken a similar approach through the years, and for most of my students, a more compassionate, kind, flexible approach has helped them succeed. Your insights about what this looks like in various situations are useful.

    Nice job!

  13. Pamela Davis

    Thanks Jeff! Your message helped confirm my approach, although I do require some kind of documentation. Maybe it’s the counselor in me wanting them to have accountability. 🙂 I was definitely more flexible with students until the last few days when I had students contacting me who had missed weeks of assignments. Thanks for your ideas and for all the great work you do for students!

  14. Susan Schneider

    Thank you Jeff for sharing – agree!!!
    Students have all kinds of excuses – but for those who reach out, I generally utilize the kindness factor. I also feel that they need to at least make the effort to reach out and initiate the conversation, acknowledging they are in the course. When I feel more invested in their course than they do … it tells me a lot about them and their commitment to their learning.
    Hard and set rules don’t typically work well in the long run!

  15. Sharon Park

    Thanks for your topic, Jeff. I adopted a ‘pedagogy of kindness’ immediately, because I needed the same from my students this semester. Like Shonda Rhimes (look her up) saying ‘Yes’ opens many doors that you may not have noticed were there.

  16. Melissa Kaplan

    Wonderful guidance, Jeff. Kindness is always appropriate. Thank you for making it so clear.

  17. Rob Linsley

    Thank you so much for sharing! You seem like a wonderful instructor!

    One thing I’ve learned as a tutor (both in a student position at the then-Writing Center and in a professional position now) is that so many “bad students” are actually awesome students in bad situations. Someone can seem completely emotionally fine and like they are just a “bad student,” and then you learn of some horribly difficult things they are struggling with.

    I’ve been on the other side of that, when I was a student at LCC and especially later at CMU. I am thankful for the professors who demonstrated a “pedagogy of kindness” toward me when I was struggling with some intense things. I want to add that it’s also worth remembering that there may be students whose lives have been turned upside down in a huge way through things like sexual violence or serious mental health struggles, but they are too afraid to disclose why they need extensions/help because of mandatory reporting. As a recent student myself, I had a lot of conversations with peers about the difficulties many students have in facing these issues but not feeling able to be open with instructors about what they are going through. As you alluded to, there are so many good reasons students may need help, but for whatever reason they feel they cannot tell you those reasons.

    You never know what all someone is going through—but you can think back on your own experiences of needing grace, and you can use that compassionate imagination to extend that kind of grace you needed.

    1. Jeff Janowick

      Rob, thanks for sharing this perspective. That’s one of the things I’ve learned as an instructor: that I don’t really know what students are going through. Rather than try to determine which students “deserve” or “need” the benefit of the doubt, I just assume everyone deserves it. I know that is good for my students–it also makes it easier for me. It lets me focus on the teaching, which is what I care about the most anyway.

      It comes back to something my colleague Barb Clauer always says: trust students. They almost always reward that trust.

  18. Megan Fila

    Jeff, what an encouraging message! As I listened, I reflected on Brene Brown’s encouragement to believe that people are generally doing the best that they can. Perhaps one of the most important ways we can prepare our students to succeed is to teach them kindness through our example.

    By the way, you are, indeed, rocking the beard!

  19. Cheryl Garayta

    Jeff, thank you for putting out this message. Thank you especially for addressing the question of whether showing compassion through flexibility keeps students from learning to deal with deadlines and responsibility. I always think of the many times in my life that I’ve needed others to show me the same level of compassion. How many times have any of us missed submitting enrollment verification, or skipped a name on a grade roll, or needed an extension on a program review submission, or any of the other deadlines we all face in our own work lives? Remembering that our students are human, just like us, and showing them the same level of compassion we appreciate receiving when it’s needed can go a long way toward helping them complete when the hard-and-fast deadline rule would prevent that completion.

  20. Anne Rau

    This is wonderful, not just for COVID times, but always. Love the Abraham Lincoln anecdote.

  21. Teresa

    Thank you for “choosing” to show kindness. You have an awesome way to explain it and even defend it. Nicely put. (Your compassion toward others reminds me of a Netflix show I watched called “The Kindness Diaries”.) Very Inspirational.

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  23. Cheryl McCormick

    I love your message. I feel that in this environment, many people are willing to be more flexible. However, as things have been changed in the programs I teach in over the years, it’s clear there are some faculty and administrators who feel as a “normal” approach to teaching my students, they don’t really have issues that have hindered them and don’t need the kind of kindness of which you speak so eloquently. I have gotten pretty verbal about how the most recent changes to the programs in which I teach are not helpful and causing some of my students great stress and discouragement. Your words about adopting kindness as a normative approach to working with all students warm my heart. They remind me of what works best for my students. More than that, it’s what works best for all people, not just our students, and it’s what will help counteract the divisive tensions going on in society. Thank you!

    1. Jeff Janowick

      Cheryl,
      I agree, and I do hope we make kindness normative. Changing the mindset with which we approach students, and the challenges they face, creates opportunities for all of us. It’s rewarding to see students accomplish things. I know many of us already embrace this mindset, but being intentional about it has made me change a great deal about my classes and teaching as I recognized the barriers I was putting up, even unintentionally.

  24. Dan Rafail

    I agree with your position on kindness completely and your method of allowing students to make up work. I have a very similar approach. The goal is learning and growing. There are often very genuine life challenges for students and sometimes they just need the patience and encouragement necessary to grow into the role of college student.

    1. Jeff Janowick

      Dan,
      The most common comment on my student evaluations this past semester was that they felt like I understood how challenging life was for them. I’m not sure if that translated to more success (I definitely had some students finish who might not have otherwise, but it was a tough semester), but it made them feel like I gave them a chance. Hopefully that translates to them being able to grow, to feel encouraged, and to be successful in the future if not this time around. the opportunity to grow seems important.

  25. Faith T Edwards

    While serving as an administrator for the nursing program at a 2yr. college, two students were adamant that the reason they failed the exam was the professor was prejudiced. The exam was considered basic math. I suggested that she give the same exam to the students again. Don’t change order of questions…nothing different.
    The faculty thought the idea was foolish. I shared with her that the end goal was that the student learns. If they pass, then great, they learned. If they fail, we demonstrated kindness and data indicates they do not know the material.

    1. Jeff Janowick

      Faith,
      I agree that defining the end goal as “the student learns” is fundamental. It seems like such a small, obvious thing, and yet many of our practices are not focused on that idea. Centering that idea opens up possibilities to do more than many of us already do. Keeping that goal in mind changes everything.

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