Teaching with Compassion — From the Educator’s Heart to the Student’s Heart
Compassion (from the Latin term compasione) can be described as an understanding of another person’s emotional state. It should not be confused with empathy. Compassion is often combined with a desire to alleviate or lessen negative feelings, as well as showing special kindness.
To have compassion is to remain in a positive emotional state, while trying to understand the other, without invading, however, your space. (Wikipedia)
Compassion and the children
Defining compassion for children can be challenging if you explain it in adult terms. Telling a child that compassion is “an understanding awareness of the feeling of others,” would probably make their eyes look glassy in confusion. Children need definitions of compassionate behavior, explained in words, or even in actions so they can understand.
In a world where students are often concerned with test results, in some schools, they are treated as numbers and not unique human beings, where their well-being is challenged by poverty, intolerance, and bullying, and where technological innovations are often they wear personal contact, compassionate teachers are needed more than ever!
To teach with compassion is to have practical and strategic tools designed to help educators promote a humanitarian culture in the classroom.
Taking a step back in history — what did Darwin say?
A brilliant analysis (Goetz, 2010) found an intrinsic motivation for compassion between species. The very definition of compassion is described as an affective state defined by a subjective feeling, rather than compassion as being defined as an attitude. This analysis also differentiates empathy from compassion. The evolutionary analysis concludes that emotions are adaptations to the survival and reproductive needs of species. This research sought to separate compassion from emotions, to better understand the biological need for cooperation.
Darwin proposed that, for the species’ definitive survival, the community with the most sympathetic members would be more likely to grow and evolve. This proposition was supported by observations between species and cultural divisions. The evolution of sympathy allowed the continuity of the species’ reproduction viability. Basically, the analysis concludes that Darwin not only believed that “only the strong survive”, but even more importantly, “the most cooperative survive”.
Compassionate schools — how compassion has been used in schools
Below, a video from Cambridge University Press. This webinar shows how a compassionate approach to well-being was introduced at a UK school, to improve the emotional health of staff and students.
“Teaching with Compassion” — The book that inspires my methodology
Teachers and students have much to gain from compassionate interaction, not only for the benefit of the learning environment but also for the benefit of their health and happiness.
The book “Teach with compassion” is a volume that offers a rare and powerful antidote to mistaken views of learning and teaching deficits. This adorable and practical book has been specially developed for teachers who see their work as a catalyst for building a kinder and more compassionate world. Written with simplicity and elegance, it puts teaching in the most important of contexts: it focuses on the fact that every student we meet in the classroom is a unique human being. A human being who has a passage on the same path that we are on.
The authors, Peter and Janine, have a strong interest in Buddhist teachings, and this fact permeates the pages of the book. The book is organized around 8 principles. Each of these elements, in the words of the authors, serves as a reminder for every teacher.
:: Practice the beginner mindset — I feel open to learning and honoring what students bring to the classroom.
:: Follow the golden rule — I imagine myself as a student in the classroom, I treat my students with dignity and respect and I have a genuine desire to learn.
:: Learn from adversity — I try to understand difficult situations to connect and respond to the pain and suffering within me and the students.
:: Leave the ego at the door — Through humility and a sense of vulnerability, I bring a heart of welcome and openness to my teaching.
:: Focus on classroom chemistry — I must cultivate a cohesive community of students to promote a humanitarian educational experience.
:: Listen with intention — I listen deeply, fully, and actively, absorbing words, gestures, and silence.
:: Keep space — Knowing that the student experiences stress and uncertainty, I offer opportunities for him to feel, reflect, and express himself.
:: Teach like the sun — Wishing that students reach their full potential, I radiate light throughout the classroom and offer my attention to everyone.
A look at teaching compassion in Education
Compassion benefits the classroom by contagion. Kinder, happier and healthier students are present in classrooms with higher levels of compassion. Studies show that the more compassionate the teacher, the more easily students will learn.
The rise in incidents of violence and other anti-social behavior in schools has been a very serious topic of study. What many have found is that the sooner children learn empathy and appropriate pro-social behavior, the fewer incidents. The book Teaching Compassion: Human Education in Early Childhood, by Mary Renck Jalongo, describes much of this research.
Research by the American Psychological Association shows that teenagers are inheriting stressful habits from adults. The higher the stress level, the lower the dopamine level. A human being in a compassionate state has higher levels of oxytocin, which in turn increases dopamine levels, allowing for a state of relaxation. A cooperation classroom versus a competition classroom would likely promote better results in your students’ attention.
Activities and exercises for teachers to use with students
:: Cooperative and team-building games. It promotes daily interaction with colleagues in a fun way, the ability to create teams, and prosocial skills.
:: Create a position of “volunteer” aide in the classroom. Many schools have created guidance papers for children. Helping a younger child on a given subject or guiding new students around the school are great ways to promote the improvement of prosocial activities.
:: Establish the ‘acts of kindness’ pot. Encourage acts of kindness by helping children focus on them. Creating a pot or box in which students can anonymously offer examples of kindness in the classroom is a powerful way to make them interact positively.
:: Read/write inspiring stories. Examples of important historical figures and their compassionate lives are powerful ways to inspire compassion in students. Hearing stories of leaders who have a compassionate impact on the world shows children what is possible with that intention.
:: Brainstorming of the whole class in a scenario of imaginary crisis (for example Hurricane Katrina). Helping children find solutions in crisis is a powerful way to realize how vital compassion is, especially when situations are extremely serious.
:: Teach children meditation on kindness. There are many examples available, and investing time in this practice will reduce stress for professionals.
Trust, security, and respect
The goal of building compassionate relationships with students in the classroom is to create an environment of security, trust, and respect. Students flourish when the calming system in the brain is activated, promoting feelings of belonging and connection.
Top tips from teachers
1. Experienced teachers recommend getting involved in extracurricular activities, such as clubs or school trips so that students get to know you in a more personal sense.
2. Be an authentic model: don’t be afraid to make mistakes in front of students, and if you do something wrong or upset someone, apologize.
3. We are all human — and sometimes it is complicated to be human! If you treat students with that respect and honesty, they will develop confidence in you.
4. Don’t be afraid to use humor! Laughter is a beautiful way to bring everyone together.
5. Remember to prioritize your well-being, as this will help you form supportive and caring relationships in your personal and professional life.
Below the “Teacher-Student Rapport” webinar for suggestions on how to create a good teacher-student relationship in your classroom:
The qualities of a compassionate teacher
A compassionate teacher teaches from the heart. The heart knows what it is like to have a passion for the subject.
The compassionate kindly teaches, guiding, and allowing students to explore to discover errors and revelations.
The compassionate teacher models the qualities of the great teachers of history. Jesus Christ, Buddha, Confucius, Lao Tzu, St. Francis of Assisi, Aristotle, and others.
The compassionate teacher can inspire. Deepak Chopra is an example of an inspiring person. He inspired people like Maya Angelou and many other successful people. It teaches about the harmony of the body, mind, and soul. He teaches self-compassion as well.
Compassion allows the gifts of the spirit to work within you. Because? You have wisdom and knowledge so that faith can be born within you.
Course — The Compassion Project
Lesson Plans for Teaching Empathy & Compassion
(everfi.com) — Skills like compassion usually receive less time in the classroom. Compassion is an important socio-emotional skill that begins to develop in early childhood and is essential for health and success throughout life.
Compassion for learning increases students’ sense of well-being and improves the learning environment. By teaching with kindness, empathy, and compassion, educators prepare their students for long-term success in all aspects of life.
EVERFI’s new social and emotional learning program, The Compassion Project, is the first comprehensive, free program designed to promote compassionate education and help educators facilitate lessons on fundamental skills.
With interactive activities and games that teach compassion, the course offers invaluable resources for teaching empathy in the classroom.
Join us on this wonderful project!
For information: email@example.com
Cambridge University Press — Articles and webinars
Book: Teaching with compassion — Peter Kauffman and Janine Schipper
The Future o Learning — Chronicals on Higher Education