HOW TO CREATE A CULTURE OF COMPASSION IN STUDENTS
Everyone wants to see the best in students, which is why it’s so important to help promote compassion and caring in students. Here are some helpful tips for growing a culture of compassion in students, as well as tips for helping schools do this themselves.
Consider the Say Anything Kindness Campaign
Say Anything Kindness started out in elementary school where students were asked to say anything kind in their friend’s names. In addition to wanting to know their friends’ names, it turns out that, well, they tend to pick out some pretty weird and surprising answers as well! Chances are, kids really do see things through a friend’s eyes, so they’re less inclined to hold a grudge. Think about your children’s friends – consider your own best friend, or your child’s best friend. Do they treat you with kindness, even when they’re upset? It doesn’t always happen, but it happens, and it matters.
Share Compassion Through Educational Charities
It’s easy to fall into thinking that all nonprofits are altruistic. Giving feels good, and is worthwhile. But that kind of thinking doesn’t take into account the context in which the organization exists, especially in the context of today’s society. Look beyond the perceived altruism of the organization itself – many nonprofits are very resourced and able to help people with the conditions on the ground where they stand. So sometimes the best way to help people, rather than just thinking about “help the homeless” or “let me help the poor,” is to take an actual hands-on approach and to get kids involved with charitable organizations on a local level. By spending time with the nonprofit’s kids’ programs, they can really see what good can happen, and how they can get involved, too.
Talk to teachers about how to start and grow a kind culture in students. This applies to schools, too, as teachers can be a powerful force for compassion, and something that could help students grow in empathy and compassion for others. For example, schools with increasing student-teacher ratio do have the opportunity to spark curiosity and teach students to see the big picture. They can foster more non-cynical attitudes toward people, help students be accepting and patient, and expose students to many different types of people, places, and ideas. Talk to teachers about using students for research and storytelling as part of classroom lessons. As well, teachers need to be aware of the way they frame data for students. Doing so is a great way to lead students to reflect on what they’ve learned from their studies. It’s also a great way to shape a student’s sense of self, and the sense of self they’ll have when they graduate from high school.
This goes hand in hand with “developing a compassionate mind,” but it’s often overlooked and not highlighted enough. Not only is it good for students, but it’s really good for us in a personal and professional sense, as well. We can start our compassion practices by being mindful of others, and not assuming that we understand them better than they do, or that our views of their lives and perspectives are the same as our own. This may not be easy at first, but practicing it can help us become more empathetic. It can help us to look through others’ eyes, and be more aware of others’ needs and perspectives, making us better at communicating with them and caring for them as we should. It can help us to look for ourselves in the behaviors and responses of others. By doing this, we will develop empathy and a more compassionate and loving attitude toward others. We will be more “selfless,” willing to sacrifice for another, willing to take a role that is less than our own. We will be less “selfish” in our actions. Most of all, it will make us feel a whole lot better about ourselves – as well as ourselves.