Integrative Authentic

School Care Strategy

Schools Must Do More and Deeply Care (The Mission) 

The IASC strategy starts with the premise that one must first have leaders and a staff of individuals who believe in and promote self-care, including having a strong understanding of, and security in, one’s own identity so that they may enrich and endow care upon the lives of others. The purpose of this strategy is to help schools implement a mindset among educators and students that self-care produces sustained care for others that increases critical social and emotional learning techniques. These techniques then create a school culture that values and embraces an inclusion and diverse school environment, enhances student classroom performance, reduces bullying and destructive behaviors toward oneself and others, increases empathy, and develops positive adults who maintain healthy habits. Students should feel and know that the educators are concerned about their physical, emotional, social, and educational needs.


We need schools full of staff who are dedicated to developing proactive (not simply reactive) emotional and social programs. Rather than waiting for our students to struggle, educators need tools that will help them identify behaviors and patterns which indicate emerging social and emotional difficulties. They then need the resources to be able to address those difficulties and employ a caring attitude towards all students.


The term “educator” is meant to encompass not only the classroom teacher, but also other school personnel involved in serving the child—from classroom teachers to school counselors, as well as social workers, nurses, psychologists, and administrators, as well as the lunch room attendant, the janitor, the school bus driver, and the parking lot attendant. They all serve children, so they are all considered educators—everyone becomes an integral part of the educational team to help children succeed. So, in this context, every person working in the school system is part of a community of educators.


If our educators exhibit what we define as integrative authentic type of care, I contend that our school systems would change. Our students would change. We would see more vibrant, healthy, loving, successful, and prosperous young people. Our schools and the clients they serve would thrive.


Current State of Care 


Making care a focus in schools is a proven methodology for student success. Harvard’s Making Care Common project has conducted numerous studies through its various partners, including the National School Climate Center, to find effective strategies for promoting kindness in children and a commitment to the greater good. They also influence the national conversation about raising and educating caring, ethical children and how this translates to student success.


The Integrative Authentic School Care Strategy complements Harvard’s research but takes it to a new level by aligning their research with a mindset of self-care to long-term sustained care in schools. We hope to work further with Harvard, and its partners, to conduct studies to promote this complementary strategy.


Under this strategy, care in schools means that educators exhibit behavior and implement tools for their own self-care and for the care of others. This type of care translates between educators and students. In addition, schools should have the financial budget and correct structure that allows for an Integrative Authentic School Care Strategy to be fully implemented.


What Happens When You Don’t Care?


We are all held accountable for fulfilling our civic responsibilities, but what about social responsibility? It’s important that we each understand how the actions of a single individual can benefit the whole society. Educators have a unique opportunity to influence the success or failure of their students—to inspire them to do better than they believe they can, or to do the bare minimum, neglecting to recognize how implementing authentic care strategies would empower their students. If every teacher and administrator were socially responsible and had the tools and resources to implement authentic care, our world would be drastically different.


Recently, I was at the grocery store with my teen daughter. As we exited our car, a woman in the parking lot dropped a candle from her bag. Its glass casing shattered all over the asphalt and the wax candle crumbled into pieces. We smiled at the woman, hoping to lift her spirits, and walked into the grocery store. When my daughter and I came back out of the store, the woman was gone, but the shattered glass remained.


“We have to go tell someone about this,” I told my daughter.


“Why, Mom? It’s not our problem, that lady should have taken care of that” she looked at me, confused.


This is the problem. This is what happens when our children aren’t taught social responsibility in school. As a parent, I am constantly reminding my kids that this IS our problem, and it would be great if schools reinforced this way of living. It’s become normalized for us to not care for one another more than we’re obligated to or more than our job descriptions dictate we must.


Everyone is too “busy” to take any responsibility for the burdens of others, so we operate within the bare minimum of expectation.


I explained to my daughter that it’s important we make sure the glass is cleaned up so that no one would get hurt. It wasn’t our direct responsibility to do this, but it was our moral obligation, and that’s what authentic care is all about—taking the time to help each other. It’s the same reason why I pile all of my plates together at a restaurant when I’m finished with my meal. Sure, I know there is a busser whose responsibility it is to gather them and clean them from the table, but why not lessen his load?


As an educator, when you see a kid who needs help but you decide that you’re too busy to take the time to get involved, you’re not providing that student with the care that they need. If you identify emotional problems, if you can see that they are shattering on the inside, but you don’t feel like it’s your direct responsibility to help that child sort out and assemble the pieces, you are stifling their ability to learn. School staff have a social responsibility to all of our children.


Our youth, primarily between the ages of 13-21, struggle with personal motivation and to adopt a socially responsible mindset because they are still in the process, biologically, of discovering their own identity. This is part of every adolescent’s learning process. They struggle because, while they intuitively know who they are, peer pressure is so great and they, more often than not, fall prey to the whims of their peer groups, good, bad or indifferent. It is much more challenging for them to stand alone and for what they believe in.


In addition, teens are less capable of controlling their emotions and impulses. Brain research proves this true. As one research article suggests, “teenagers need guidance as their brains develop, especially in the realm of controlling emotional impulses in order to make rational decisions. It is becoming clear that the adolescent brain is a work in progress, and that parents and educators can help this progress along through open communication and clear boundaries.” The IASC strategy is meant to provide emotional support, guidance, boundaries, and a communicative lifeline between educators and students.


In addition, it is challenging for teens to care for others who are outside of what the Harvard Making Care Common project defines as their “circle of concern.” As a result, it’s more challenging for teens to be socially responsible, emotionally intelligent, and to care for others, but the IASC strategy has the capability of expanding our students’ perspectives, helping them to emotionally mature while succeeding academically.


Authentic Care Ignites Growth and Academic Success 


This is where it gets deep and real, so hold on.


What people do not realize is that by caring, you begin to gain a deeper sense of self-worth, life satisfaction, self-respect, a clearer view of your identity, and why you are here on this earth—you understand your purpose. If you ask most people what they want most out of life, it is to know their purpose.


That’s what’s in it for them.


But we all must own our aptitude of care. It starts with how much we care about ourselves and the work we are willing to put into our own self-care.

We can only provide long-term, sustainable care for others to the extent we are first willing to care for ourselves. When we value our own self-care, we gain a deeper understanding of who we are, we learn to love our own identity, and we subtly and intuitively desire to cling to our own identity. We then began to crave more of what we are all individually designed to do.


Once we establish and appreciate our self-care, we innately set up protocols to train ourselves in who we are. We become less defensive and more forgiving. We listen more, engage, and share thoughts and ideas, pursuing and garnering deeper dialogues with others. We begin to love who we are and love the living process.


Everything shifts.


With this renewed sense of individual clarity, it is easier to know how much responsibility we should have in a particular matter. A person with individual clarity does not over commit. They are clear and precise in their actions and do not have an overzealous view of themselves.


When you are clear about your own identity, you are more in-tune with your overall wellbeing. You understand your role in life, you realize you are part of a bigger plan, and you begin to live for a bigger purpose. More importantly, you realize that you, alone, cannot do everything.


Therefore, you begin to desire to live in community with other like-minded folks.


Individuals with clarity about their identity typically connect with their neighbors more often to create a sense of community. They share meals with one another, frequently wave at one another, and often randomly talk and have “over the fence” conversations. When a neighbor is out of town, they pick up their mail and put out their trash. They notice if someone drives up in their driveway when they are away, and will text them and ask them if they were having someone over. No one finds that awkward because that is what you do when you care and have a deep sense of your own identity. You are socially responsible.


People that care also volunteer and give back to their community. They find ways to serve others and make good use of their resources to help not only their community, but also other communities.  


Show me a group of people who care and I bet you will see a group of people that are vibrant, healthy, loving, successful, and prosperous. I bet you see a thriving community. 


You can’t give what you don’t have. If we teach our educators how to be caring and socially responsible, it will bleed over into our students, creating a world of emotionally intelligent people—people who frequently take a temperature of their self-awareness and self-management, which translates into deeper relationships, motivation, a thirst for knowledge, thus deeper life satisfaction.


Teenagers need adults in their lives who can model this type of care on a daily basis.


Where is This Community? 


Well, the one place this community must exist is in educational institutions across the country.


Children and adolescents spend a large portion of their time in school, which gives educators more access to students than most other professionals. Schools are one of the few places in which children are seen almost daily.


The term “educator” is meant to encompass not only the classroom teacher, but also other school personnel involved in serving the child—from classroom teachers to school counselors, as well as social workers, nurses, psychologists, and administrators, as well as the lunch room attendant, the janitor, the school bus driver, and the parking lot attendant. They all serve children, so they are all considered educators—everyone becomes an integral part of the educational team to help children succeed. So, in this context, every person working in the school system is part of a community of educators.


Why Do You Care, Diana? 


The primary impediment of a child’s ability to grow and learn is not knowing that they matter, that they are cared for, and that they are safe to be who they want to be.


Growing up, my family and I dealt with persistent childhood trauma, all of which is documented in my personal autobiography, Inspiration in My Shoes.


I always wanted someone to notice me, to give me a chance, and to believe in me. Most days, I felt stuck, but I kept plowing through. I was a hard worker, and I just wanted a chance to prove it, but the school system didn’t foster my needs. They neglected to address the clear emotional instability that was present in myself and in my siblings. It was incredibly hard to concentrate on school work and aspirations because we felt unsafe and unseen.


As I grew older and entered law school, I knew my brother struggled. I could tell that my brother really wanted to make a life for himself after high school. He had dreams to live in Michigan or Arizona. He was not sure which. Sadly, all of his dreams melted away when my brother committed suicide in 1994. I will never forget hearing the news of my brother’s death. I have forgiven myself of any guilt associated with his death (that awful feeling of whether or not I did enough when he was alive). However, I would be lying if I said I do not think of him every single day. Everything about my brother’s life remains at the root of my life’s passion. I am fueled by the memory of him.


I was angry at my school and, more specifically, at my high school counselor, to the point that I stopped in to visit him after my brother’s death. Through my grief and desire to blame someone for his death, we started the Damon A. Pinskey Memorial Scholarship to award students for standing up for others, having empathy, and evident values that display true character. My brother’s character scholarship launched in 1995, and the last scholarship was given in May 2017, when my high school closed down.

Is Your School Ready?