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Encouraging Compassion in the Classroom

We can build classrooms that foster respect, compassion and deep listening, resulting in spaces where students feel safe and where healthy social skills can emerge. The word compassion comes from the words to be “with suffering.” It is our ability to step into the shoes of another person, to care for them without judgment. It can involve putting someone else’s needs above your own. Building a skill like compassion in a classroom community starts with helping students feel that they have things in common, that they are not alone.  It also comes from learning how to solve problems and being able to help each other.  Class meetings help students grow their sense of compassion as they begin to appreciate both what they have in common and how they are different. They gain an ability to shift perspectives and understand how someone might be feeling. As students continue to practice they are able to intentionally choose to be kind and helpful to each other.

  • Help students learn to listen compassionately and respond with acceptance. When their classmates feel heard, and understood, they are able to figure out solutions on their own. Practice sentence stems like “It seems like you feel______ because ______ and you wish_____,” or, “I heard you say.”
  • Have regular class meetings that start with compliment circles and move to problem solving.
  • Invite students to share of themselves. Using “I am from” poems is one tool. You can find templates online. Encourage open discussion and share activities that help students understand differences and inclusiveness.
  • Model compassion. Treat all students with dignity and respect. This is hard on difficult days.  Model pausing and taking a brain break so you can be your best self.

Expect your students to treat each other kindness and care. Give them opportunities to help each other and fix things when they make a mistake.