Exploring compassion in education
When working with children, the role of teaching goes beyond providing students with knowledge to pass an exam. We have a responsibility to support them academically, guide them in building necessary developmental skills, and allowing them to reach their true potential. Professor of education, Dr. John D. Bransford, describes that curriculums and techniques should take into account the students’ demographics, family backgrounds, and social environments in order to respond to each child’s ecosystem. Moreover, student’s personal interests, previous knowledge and beliefs are key factors to also consider when creating a positive learning environment because individuals are more able to thrive in these academic settings.
Children, particularly those who are at-risk, face numerous challenges that are, more often than not, beyond the scope of control of just one individual. However, every time we interact with a child, we have the possibility to create a safe environment, free of judgment, to really listen to them and learn about their needs. Children’s voices are frequently disregarded and this can have detrimental effects on their development. The most important part of engaging with a child is to truly care about them and recognize them as the main agents of their own lives.
Dr. Monica Sharma, in her book “Radical Transformational Leadership” expresses the need of three universal values that should drive all actions: dignity, equity and compassion. Dignity is shown in actions that build spaces that allow self esteem and self worth to flourish. The child’s development and wellbeing should remain the focus of any and all environments they are in. Equity refers to the fair inclusion of all. If a teacher is trained to recognize their own biases, they will be able to work on themselves previously, then show up and treat every child equally, giving them all a chance to reach their full potential. Finally, “compassion is our love in action.” Dr. Sharma explains that we are all called to recognize, respond and ease the suffering in others. Ultimately, every interaction we have should hold space for compassion and understanding.
The last two years, I spent only a few hours a week with my students, so making the most out of my time with them was essential. I intended on learning about them through activities, such as quizzes, drawings and interactive presentations. I lack knowledge of their native tongue, therefore, I paied attention to the small details. I slowly learned about each one of them, which in turn allowed me to teach them better. My goal was to empower them to dream. To do so, I learned from their favorite color to what career they will follow when they grow up. This gave me the necessary inputs to shape my lessons.
Linda Cliatt-Wayman, renowned author and school principal, implemented innovative changes in discipline and instruction policies, as a school principal, that resulted in higher test scores, safer classrooms, among other positive outcomes. Nonetheless, she states her great secret was loving her students and believing in their possibilities.
While educating we must remember to hear, affirm and protect students. True change happens when we begin to care about the causes we fight for. Without compassion and love driving our intents, our actions cannot transcend. Students require teachers who see them for who they are and believe in who they can be.