Caring and Children:

Why I do what I do, and how I got here

“We teach to change the world. The hope that undergirds our efforts to help students learn is that doing this will help them act toward each other, and toward their environment, with compassion, understanding, and fairness” (Brookfield, 1995, p. 1). Like many other educators, I started my teaching journey ‘to change the world” one student at a time. Fresh out of university, full of big ideas, a heart full of love for my future students, and armed with a binder packed with sample lessons, I had no idea what I was doing! I was quickly overwhelmed, buried under unfamiliar subjects and with too many students. My dream of changing the world by teaching critical and creative thinking and showering my students with care was becoming quickly insurmountable.

It wasn’t that my dream was too lofty, but that I needed to continue my educational growth. I needed more tools in my toolbox. I also needed to introduce critical reflection to my practice. As my education journey continued, I started to develop my practice and I watched my students find new successes and engagement. When I found myself teaching at an alternate middle/high school I discovered that I would need to delve deeper to meet the highly complex needs of my new students. I moved into the realm of using a caring approach and mindfulness theory to support the resiliency of my “at-risk” students as I shifted into the role of behaviour intervention teacher.

This caring approach became the turning point of my career. It became my key area of study in my masters degree and is now the cornerstone of how I work as an educator and a coach. The most influential thinker that I have learned from is Nel Noddings, specifically her work on care and teaching with an ethic of care. In this post I will delve into her work a little deeper and show how it relates to working with all children, including those with ADHD.

neilson mahoney adhd coaching

Throughout my journey working with children, I have found that when I focus on prioritizing the relationship and caring deeply, I am most successful at supporting success. In my practice this looks like focusing on strengths, listening to what children are sharing about their needs, and building trust. Noddings (2005) stated that, “in an on-going relation of care and trust, it is more likely that students will accept what we try to teach” (p. 6). In other words, a caring relationship with students that includes trust and respect will lead to a higher level of acceptance of the material and lessons presented as a teacher or a coach. 

This concept translates clearly from the classroom to all aspects of life. When we work with our children, listening to what they have to share, trusting their perspective, we find out what works for them and learn how to best support them. “As we engage our students in dialogue, we learn about their needs, working habits, interests and talents. We gain important ideas from them about how to build our lessons and plan for their individual progress” (p. 6). In a coaching relationship, this concept of building on success, interests, and needs is critical. We will work together to discover how your children have found success in the past and consider how we can apply these lessons towards the future.

In addition to caring by listening and building trust, I have learned throughout my career and masters work the importance of creating a loving, happy, and safe environment. Noddings says, “children [and adults too] learn best when they are happy” (p. 2). (2003) And,”both children and adults can accomplish wonderful things in an atmosphere of love and trust and that they will resist in environments of coercion” (p. 369). (1995)

As a coach, focusing on creating an environment where children are happy and feel safe is so very important. If you work with me, we will develop a plan for the environment together. Often when dealing with behaviour and ADHD you hear the expression: structure with flexibility. This seems counterintuitive, but it really is the key. Children feel safe with a predictable structure and calm routine. When dealing with high behavioural needs, responding with flexibility and compassion during a difficult moment is also essential. Finding this balance can be challenging, but with practice and support it will be worth it, creating that safe place for children to thrive.

neilson mahoney adhd coaching

When I reflect back on my years as an educator and now as a coach, I can remember transformative moments of listening, caring, and building trust. I can see that when I shifted my practice to building programs that were as individual and unique as my students I found increasing success as an educator. Classroom management, challenging behaviours, and my own stress as a teacher started to fade. As I went through my ADHD coaching training and started working with my first coaching clients, the same thing occurred. I now have knowledge of how the ADHD brain works, proven techniques and strategies, but at the core it is all about caring about children and parents. Each family has its own unique balance of individuals and needs. By listening and caring, I will help you find a balance and structure in your own home that works for you.


Brookfield, S. (1995). Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher [Kindle 7 version]. Retrieved from  

Noddings, N. (1995, January). A Morally Defensible Mission for Schools in the 21st Century. The Phi Delta Kappan, 76(5), 365-368. Retrieved from

Noddings, N. (2003). Happiness and Education. Cambridge University Press. Retrieved from

Noddings, N. (2005). Caring in Education. The Encyclopedia of Informal Education. Retrieved from

Strengths Based ADHD and Behaviour Coaching

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