Call to Care (C2C) is an educational research initiative of the Mind & Life Institute (MLI). C2C aims to address the limited attention in our educational systems for cultivating care — what we might call the forgotten heart of education. Current theory and research posit that a high-quality education should not only cultivate the intellectual skills of students; schools today also need to nurture the development of positive human traits, such as self-awareness, social awareness, care, and compassion, characteristics that will lead to engaged citizenship, healthy and positive relationships, meaningful employment, and human flourishing (Greenberg et al., 2003). Schools in particular have been demonstrated to be contexts that can play a crucial role in fostering students’ positive development, and have recently been acknowledged as one of the primary settings in which activities to promote social-emotional competence and prevent unhealthy behaviors should occur (Durlak, Weissberg, Dymnicki, Taylor, & Schellinger, 2011; Zins, Bloodworth, Weissberg, & Walberg, 2004).
Our health, safety, and well-being all depend on the quality of care that we are able to receive from others, develop for ourselves, and extend to those around us. Our ability to learn depends on safety and trust, which develop best within positive, nurturing relationships. Insofar as schools are responsible for consciously cultivating ethical values in their teachers, staff, students, and members of their wider community, however, it is insufficient to teach about the importance of ethics, or of tolerance and compassion. In other words, it is ineffective in the long run to repeatedly tell our students to “be kind.” We need to offer tools, skills, and practices to help our educators and our students embody these and other virtues, including patience, kindness, and empathy. We understand these virtues to be a set of basic human values, common to all human beings, part of our basic nature and able to be cultivated.
Operating at the intersections of education, developmental science, and contemplative scholarship, the C2C project incorporates a distinctive hybrid approach focusing on both students and educators through a two-year professional development and classroom implementation program operating with a common framework. The framework is built on a foundation of conceptual and empirical research in socio-emotional learning (SEL) and contemplative teaching and learning (CTL, especially mindfulness and compassion methods). The framework is organized around three integrated modes of care: receiving care, cultivating self-care, and extending care. The three modes of care framework recognizes the relational nature of care and its foundational role in learning, health and well-being, and our ethical development. The educator and student integrated programs provide specific investigations and reflective learning experiences for the development of our caring capacities. Each mode of care: receiving care, cultivating self-care, and extending care, serves as part of a symbiotic, interdependent, ecosystem.
The C2C program is imbued with MLI’s core principles of honoring local values, respecting and empowering educators and students, and supporting community. The design reflects a developmentally appropriate, culturally aware, systems-based approach. C2C is currently in year one of implementation with partner schools located throughout the United States and globally in countries such as Bhutan, Israel and Vietnam (see videos). The design of C2C continues to evolve to better meet the needs of educators and students. Currently, only invited partner sites are involved in the C2C program design and evaluation.
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