"When you're finished, please continue." That's what my teacher Tal Ben-Shahar customarily says when he's coaching his students through a reflective writing assignment in class. The point is that whenever we think we are done, there's always opportunity for further reflection, adding more, editing, finer tweaking. And we can always be encouraged to keep going, even when we think that we are finished. And that's a good thing.
When Angela and I were writing Hacking School Culture: Designing Compassionate Classrooms, we drew on the wisdom of design thinking to guide our premise. Originally our subtitle was "creating" compassionate classrooms. But the process of creating suggested that there would be a finished product that reflected the vision of the creator. We wanted to let readers know that we believe that compassionate classrooms are built on empathy, and a shared vision. And that the process of transformation is made up of small changes that are constantly being tested, reflected upon, and adjusted to meet the needs of the students. It's these small changes on the ground that lead to shifts in culture. So that's why we changed the title to designing compassionate classrooms. Transformation is a living, breathing process, with lots of room for redesigning as needed. Design thinking informs our work.
Hack 3: Craft Your Classroom Culture, invites you to begin building your compassionate classroom like a design thinker. The first step is always to begin with empathy -- understanding the needs and interests of those you are building it for. In this case, it's your students. So, we invite you to include them in defining what compassion might look like in your classroom. You probably already have some elements already working. There are other components that you may wish to strengthen. And some things may not be present, so you might consider introducing them.
To most of us, this seems like a daunting task. But in the spirit of design thinking, we invite you to begin. Try something. Perhaps introducing a strengths-based approach using the VIA character strengths. And then, when you're finished, please continue.
As you engage in the process of crafting your classroom culture, and facilitating discussion with your students, you might want to consider the following questions:
What does compassion in the classroom look like? Sound like? Feel like?
What are my beliefs about compassion and how it may relate to learning and motivation?
Who in my life was my most compassionate teacher?
What made that teacher compassionate?
How did that person make me feel?
What do you notice about your own classroom that resembles your definition of a compassionate classroom?
In our next post, we will revisit these reflection questions, and deepen the discussion about crafting your compassionate classroom.
In the meantime, we invite you to contact us with your thoughts, questions, comments, reflections on our Compassionate Classrooms Facebook page, on Twitter @EllenFeigGray and @AngelaStockman, or by dropping us a note.