Last week, I suggested that distinguishing responsibility from response ability enables teachers to attend to their students' diverse needs without weighing themselves down in shame and blame and problems whose solutions they may have no influence over.
Instead, response able teachers focus on what they can control: the principles, practices, and policies at work inside of their own classrooms.
When Ellen and I began designing this site, we fell in love with the image of the lotus flower. A symbol of peaceful detachment, Buddhists appreciate how the flower blossoms on long stalks, even though it is rooted in the mud. This is our vision of the response able teacher and parent. It's a state that we all strive for, however imperfectly. Our lotus flower has three purposeful petals, too. Each invites us to define, align, and refine our principles, policies, and practices, whether we're teachers or parents. As I blog from the educator's perspective here, I'm writing for teachers today, but Ellen will be by on Wednesday to translate this approach for parents.
Here's an example of how you might begin to design a compassionate classroom:
Invite your students to investigate compassion, and then, define your guiding principles together, based upon their study. They might differ from those that Ellen and I identified (below), and this is fine. What matters is that your classroom principles reflect your students' understanding of what compassion is and how to best achieve it together.
Next, begin aligning your classroom policies and most valued practices to these principles. It helps to design a set of reflective questions that can be used to examine each policy and practice with intention. These are the questions that Ellen and I designed, in alignment with the principles above. Yours should align to those you create with your students. Use your responses to identify where and how each practice and policy might be refined.
Adjust your practices and policies, improving the alignment to your principles. Know that this is never a perfect science. This work often uncovers complexities and challenges that are difficult to resolve. This is okay. What matters is your deepening awareness, the conversations that you're having with your students, and the fact that your classroom is becoming increasingly compassionate over time. When we refine our practices and policies, we test them to see how well they work. Response able teachers seek their students' feedback along the way. They invite their input, and they problem solve with them.
What might this look like in practice?
Well, when I began aligning and refining my own teaching practices, I started by taking a magnifying glass to my feedback protocols first. This is important: Start with ONE policy or practice, and make it an important one.
I know from experience that the quality of the feedback my students receive has a profound influence on their growth, and prior to doing this work, I was relying on feedback frames that were highly directive. My refinements made for a far more student-centered process that was grounded in their own self-advocacy and powered by strengths. If you're interested in using these approaches in your own classroom, just subscribe to our website at the bottom of our homepage. Those who do have access to a wide variety of free tools and special resources that we aren't sharing widely, including my refined feedback protocols and tools.
This is just a quick glance at the surface of what can often be very complex work. Ellen and I are eager to support you in your own efforts to define, align, and refine your principles, policies, and practices. This is work that we lead in classrooms, inside of various parent organizations, and in coaching sessions as well. Drop us a line if you'd like to chat about it more, or come find us on Facebook or Twitter. We're @AngelaStockman and @EllenFeigGray there.