Creating a compassionate environment within the four walls of your classroom may not always be an easy task, but it is worth the effort. With that being said, teachers have a finite amount of time to prepare, teach and reach. Teachers have to make endless decisions throughout the day. Many teachers feel exhausted by the end of the school day, so the thought of setting another goal may feel daunting. Yet, even in the midst of the controlled chaos of the classroom, it really is possible to create compassion. As you continually investigate new ways to help more students achieve success in their work and confidence, you may find that incorporating an ethic of compassion within your classroom will change the culture and improve your students’ academic and social development. A compassionate classroom is not an environment that lacks academic rigor, it is an environment where students are understood to be complex people. It is an environment where all students feel they belong. Compassionate classrooms are places where student voices and ideas are prioritized and acknowledged. Some ideas that are simple to incorporate:
1. Do “caught being kind” awards.
2. Create a compassion bulletin board. Write out the definition of compassion on the board, and then write examples of compassion toward self, other people, animals, and the environment. Encourage students to add to the topics. These can be excellent topics for launching points for personal narratives.
3. When doing getting-to-know-you activities, include questions about kindness.
4. Make a commitment to bring in outside sources for real-world learning experiences. One teacher does something called “Make It Real Mondays”, and every Monday they talk about a real-world topic. By the end of the year they have a great list of topics to choose from for their argument writing piece.
5. Keep in mind your self-care. Teachers know how to put others over their own needs. It can be exhausting, and it’s necessary to recharge. As you ponder over curriculum, policies, and routines, consider ways to bring more heart into the classroom. A healthy teacher is a more compassionate teacher. You might like the CE Credits Online course, “Developing Students’ Mindfulness Practice to Support Engagement, Self-Regulation, and Achievement.”
6. Research compassionate classroom resources. To start off your journey to creating a heartwarming and inclusive classroom, consider taking the course: “Creating Compassionate Classrooms” through CE Credits Online.
7. Celebrate Inclusion. Lack of representation can make for a hostile environment. Your Classroom Walls do a lot of talking, and posters can convey strong messages of encouragement, care, safety, and inclusion. Take a look at these postersthat help proclaim your classroom a safe space for everyone.
8. Incorporate innovative student seating. Rows are outdated. Group seating sets the stage for student-centered learning. Check out this blog post by Todd Finley, “Tips for Creating Wow-Worthy Learning Spaces”.
9. Lighting? Nothing says institution like florescent lights. Bring in lamps, turn off some of the overheads, and add plants to liven up the room. When teachers take the time to soften up the classroom, it sends a message of care to students who spend hours within those walls.
10. Do some charity work as a classroom. It’s powerful for teachers and their students to choose an organization or charity to support. Students will enhance their own empathy in the process.
11. Inspire mindfulness. It is important to read and write alongside your students, provide them with options, laugh with your students, and model vulnerability.
12. Check in with your students. Sometimes it is easy to want to jump straight into content or a project. It is easy to forget that students’ minds are already buzzing with thoughts that have nothing to do with your class. Small gestures can have a huge effect on the energy and mood of the room. This can include checking in with individual students as they enter the room through short conversations or starting the class by asking everyone how they are and having volunteers share bits of news.
13. Try informal Conferencing. Interacting with students individually and in small groups during class shows how much you care.
14. Create connections between content and personal life. It is much easier to engage in a topic when it relates to your life. Teach some units in a way that will allow students to make powerful connections.
15. Ask better questions. Ask specific questions such as: What is the main idea you are developing for your conclusion? How are you analyzing that source? What parts do you feel good about, and what are you struggling with? When you ask the right questions, connections with your students get stronger.
15. Express confidence in student abilities. There is incredible value to setting high expectations while expressing confidence that students can succeed with tasks that may feel overwhelming.
How have you made your classroom a more compassionate place? We always like hearing from you, and please let us know if we can share some of your experiences in our blog.