Teacher as Caregiver, Model, Mentor

Key Ideas

  1. Children need to form caring attachments to adults. These caring relationships will foster both the desire to learn and the desire to be a good person.
  2. Values are best transmitted through these warm, caring relationships. In schools, as in families, kids care about our values because they know we care about them. If children do not experience an adult as someone who respects and cares about them, they are not likely to be open to anything the adult wishes to teach them about values.


In their relationships with individual students and with their classes, teachers can maximize their positive moral influence through three complementary roles:

  1. They can serve as effective caregivers — loving and respecting their students, helping them succeed at the work of school, building their self-esteem by treating each student as having worth and dignity, and enabling students to gain a first-hand appreciation of the meaning of morality by being treated in a moral way.
  2. They can serve as moral models — ethical persons who demonstrate a high level of respect and responsibility both inside and outside the classroom. Teachers can also model moral concern and moral reasoning by taking time to discuss morally significant events in the school and wider world.
  3. They can serve as ethical mentors — providing direct moral instruction and guidance through explanation, storytelling, classroom discussion, encouragement of positive behavior, and corrective moral feedback — especially one-on-one correction — when students engage in behavior hurtful to self or others.