Learning Begins with a Caring Classroom

By Masa Uzicanin & Irvin Scott

What can we do to create a more caring classroom environment for each and every student?

Irvin Scott of the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Sevenzo’s Masa Uzicanin hosted a conversation on Thursday, September 7 at 8:30-9:30pm Eastern. Research shows that students must feel safe and welcome in the classroom to show up academically. Irvin and Masa led a conversation with educators around why a caring classroom matters, and what it means for teachers and students. All are welcome to join. Together, we can make sure every student learns in a caring classroom.

Our Teacher Talks are casual, open conversations between educators about topics that matter most to them. They are a safe space to be honest about challenges and to co-create solutions. Anyone is welcome to join, listen in, and share ideas! For this Teacher Talk, we hosted a video chat on Zoom as well as a Twitter chat.

What We Learned

We started with “What is a caring classroom, and why does it matter NOW?” With DACA, Charlottesville, and hurricanes Harvey and Irma on our minds, we launched into a conversation with educators spanning states, grades, and subjects.


We must value individual students to help them value learning

Educators discussed how supportive relationships with students are necessary to learning — or, how you can’t reach Bloom’s Taxonomy without Maslow’s Hierarchy.

As Val Brown shared, “I feel like it’s our responsibility to SEE our kids. I see you, I see all of you, and I care for you, as a learner, as an English learner, as a refugee, as a student of color. I see you.” 

Meanwhile, on Twitter:

Developing positive relationships is an ongoing practice

Getting to know students starts on the first day and continues all year. In as little as 15 minutes a week, educators can engage in practices and routines that intentionally create a caring environment.

“There are so many kids that try to be unseen by teachers,” shared Peter Haun. In his classroom, “not only CAN they be seen, but they WILL be seen. It took until about seven years ago when a coach came into my classroom and talked to me about how I was instructing kids to make me realize how important it is to touch every part of the room every single day. There’s an expectation that not only do I care about you, but I’m going to check on you every single day.” 

Students are equal partners in learning

Eleventh-grade teacher Peter Haun and preschool teacher Gideon Kahn reflected on how they each intentionally create a space where knowledge is built collaboratively.

“My eleventh graders often think I should have every answer,” said Peter. “But I need them to tell me what they know, so I can tell them what I know, so we can build knowledge together.” 

Meanwhile, in Gideon’s classroom, “even though my students might be four, I’m deferring a lot a lot a lot of things to them to empower them. Even though I’m standing up here, I don’t have all the knowledge.”

Adults need a caring environment, too

Educators reflected on the importance of a caring classroom, school community, and professional learning community have on them. Leadership matters, from principals and teachers alike. 

“I almost didn’t connect tonight, but I’m so glad,” shared Peter. “The hour and fifteen minutes I’ll get out of this video is going to make me feel so good for the next three weeks.”

We’re so glad you joined, too. Stay tuned for future Teacher Talks to keep the conversation going. 


Read Twitter Chat on Storify

View video chat recording

Colony in a Nation by Chris Hayes

The Skin I’m In by Sharon Flake (YA Fiction)

Teaching Children to Care by Ruth Charney

For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood… and the Rest of Y’all Too by Chris Emdin

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehesi Coates

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance

Responsive Classroom

Ready to make your classroom a little more caring?