TeachThought Can compassion be taught?
The final @TeachThought #reflectiveteacher February post asks whether compassion can be taught.
Yes, it absolutely can be taught.
I am a realistic optimist. I prefer to believe in the goodness of others and that belief has made me a better person and a better teacher. I feel that people may show varying degrees of kindness to others based on their life experiences but that all people are capable of honing the compassion they have for themselves and for others.
I think that compassion is like a muscle. It needs to be strengthened and maintained properly in order to fully maximize its potential.
I have high standards for compassion in my classroom. I expect students to use please and thank you when they speak to me and to others. I continually model this when I interact with them, as well. I want my students to feel respected and safe in my room when they take academic and emotional risks (speaking and performing skits in front of their peers, giving their opinion on issues we discuss) and my goals for compassion are clear and simple. I want them to follow the Golden Rule and treat others the way they want to be treated. In fact, that statement is part of my personal Mission Statement I share with my students when they write their statements.
I am a strong proponent of character education and have become an even stronger one after I started teaching Effective Teens in 2008. One of the best resources I've learned about is from the Josephson Institute. Their Model Standards for Academic, Social, Emotional, and Character Development http://charactercounts.org/pdf/Model-Standards.pdf is what I continually refer to when I reflect on my teaching and they are hanging on my classroom wall in my reference section, alongside my Social Studies C3 Standards, National Board Standards, and Common Core Standards--all have equal weight in my eyes.
I feel these standards, which includes teaching fairness, empathy, and good citizenship, are as important to focus on as my content-specific standards and they have become as much of a benchmark for me as the others have. I strive to teach the whole adolescent while they are in my care and I do believe that they can and should be taught. We will have smarter and better members of society when emphasis is placed on this approach.
"It’s a wonder I haven’t abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart. Anne Frank, July 15, 1944
source: http://annefrank.com/about-anne-frank/diary-excerpts/ The Anne Frank Center USA