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Compassionate Classroom Cultures

Teacher’s Column: Compassionate Culture in the Classroom

This week on the Eduspot blog, we’re delighted to feature a brand new piece written by teachers, Tom Brassington and Joe Brassington. Each of their social media accounts is always flourishing with interesting content, so we’d highly recommend that you give them a follow on twitter.

What is Compassion?

Compassion: noun. A strong feeling of sympathy for the suffering of others and a wish to help them.

Diversity Not Division

Our world is an increasingly hostile place. A BBC global survey in 2018 found that 85% of people in Great Britain felt their country was divided, and 75% believed Britain to be more divided than it was ten years ago (A world divided, 2018).

Looking at the emotionally charged events of this year alone, it is hard to see where those divisions may be closing. Our departure from Europe, the largest human rights protests in history, and a global pandemic have each served to highlight existing, and widening divisions in our society.

In a world full of division, and supercharged emotion, how can educators help to bring about unity and build community? We believe this has to start in our classrooms.

Compassionate classroom cultures
An illustration by Joe Brassington

Are we too busy to build empathy?

The demands on teachers are taxing: planning, teaching, marking, reflecting. A teacher’s to-do list can always be added to- and we are constantly making decisions about what has to take priority. Surely it is essential, given that we know the world our children are growing up into, that we seek to nurture empathy as a cornerstone of their education?

How often do we quickly solve disputes between children, rather than taking the time to help them see each other’s perspectives? How often do we focus on grammar in a story, rather than the fundamentally human lessons we could be teaching about empathy? How often do we present faux positivity to our class, rather than professionally modelling emotional honesty?

Building empathy, encouraging emotional honesty, and trying to bring about unity have to be priorities in our classrooms.

Creating Emotionally Honest Spaces

“Learning to stand in somebody else’s shoes, to see through their eyes, that is how peace begins… Empathy is a quality of character that can change the world.” Barack Obama.

Building empathy, encouraging emotional honesty, and helping children to navigate their feelings are vital. They are not another thing to add to that to-do list, but instead the perspective from which everything on that to-do list should take place. These are not curriculum add-ons, they are not timetabled events, or tick-box sessions. They are a shift in practice: a reframing of the way you approach every conversation in your classroom.

In a world that feels more divided than ever, finding common ground is essential. To do this, the next generation must be empathetic, emotionally honest, and equipped to navigate difficult feelings or challenging situations. Our classrooms must be places which deliberately encourage these things. Only then will we be able to begin building bridges, rather than barriers.

Empathetic and emotionally honest spaces have the power to find unity where there was derision, and build community out of division.

Connect

To hear more from the Brassington brothers, their social media accounts are as follows:

Tom @Brassoteach 

Joe @Jjbrassington

Shared @brassobrothers 

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