My last post was about a Wisconsin study that used mindfulness training in the classroom. As you already know, this is a favorite topic of mine.
Mindfulness training is wonderful because inherent in the teaching are lessons about compassion and empathy, traits we want our children to develop so that they become socially responsible adults who care about the future of our world.
There is a new book titled 55 Teaching Dilemmas: Ten Powerful Solutions to Almost Any Classroom Challenge, by Kathy Paterson. This book offers strategies for dealing with classroom challenges with compassion and empathy.
Take a look at the book's synopsis:
To teach with excellence demands more than strategies and techniques. The most successful teachers draw on their personal power—their confidence, compassion, and empathy, and their professional power—their ability to lead, instruct, and inspire their students to do their best. With practice, most teachers can develop the skills they need to conquer almost any classroom challenge.
Compassionate Solutions for Classroom Challenges
In Chapter One, this book notes numerous ways teachers can help their students to show active compassion toward others:
- Provide encouragement all the time. It is a much better experience for the student when adults can take the time to encourage positive expectations.
- A smile can work wonders, can't it? It can change the student outlook for the entire day or an entire week. Just think how you felt as a child when the teacher smiled at you in class and gave you a hug after class? Smiles, hugs, and words of encouragement can work wonders with children.
- Follow the golden rule of treating others as you would want to be treated. In other words, encourage your students to be courteous to others.
- Help your students to feel safe in the classroom. For some students, this might mean it's important to leave the classroom door open or to not sit too closely to a child. It isn't easy to discern the family life of each child in the classroom. Some children come from homes that are abusive verbally, physically, or even sexually. Each child will have their sense of comfort level and it's important to be as attuned to this as possible
- Instead of making all the decisions for your classroom on your own, from time to time ask your students what they would like to do next. Allow them to select a book for you to read aloud or to decide whether they want to use crayons for their drawings or paint.
- Take the time to get to know your students. We know that teachers don't have a lot of time given their work schedules and the push these days to prepare students for tests. But the better you get to know your students, the better you will understand them.
- Never take for granted the power of observation. Observe your students body language to determine how they are feeling in the classroom.
- Do all you can to maintain calmness in your classroom and to avoid explosive situations.
- It's important to respect your students' friendships. If it makes them more comfortable to sit with their friends, allow them to do this so long as their behavior doesn't become disruptive to the entire class.
- Look for signs of suffering in your students. The best way to help is through active listening.
- Try to monitor playground squabbles or in-class disagreements and find ways to come to amicable solutions.
How to Show Empathy in the Classroom
There are numerous ways that teachers can show empathy towards her/his students and in the classroom. Here are a few suggestions from this wonderful new book:
- Get to know your students as individuals and try to align your expectations with each student's needs.
- Treat all of your students with dignity and respect and help your students to treat others in the same manner.
- When a child is confiding in you, practice active listening and do your best to refrain from interrupting with advice.
- Adopt empathetic responses to help you respond to situations in the classroom without judgment. By doing this, you will be setting an example for your students to express less judgment toward others in their lives.
To learn more about this topic, be sure to check out the book and consider subscribing to Education World, a great resource for teachers that offers lesson plans, professional development opportunities, and an active blog.
Elizabeth B. Martin is the author and illustrator of six picture books for children. You can view her books here for free