A compassionate classroom is one where students feel that they belong. Every teacher wants their students to be happy at school because happy learners are productive learners. So what happens when a child starts to feel unsafe and anxious about coming to classes?
It's hard to tell when or why this may happen, but one of the reasons can be the unpleasant possibility of the student being bullied. Bullying is an ugly reality that can occur in either the physical world or the digital one. It's one of the most terrifying and degrading experiences anyone can experience—especially a young child. As such it's a problem that must be handled with extreme care.
Building a compassionate classroom is the perfect place to begin. It's the one place learners spend all their time together, sharing ideas and opinions, and interacting in social and intellectual ways. Creating a non-threatening environment for them will help foster excellence in the midst of any challenges.
What is a Compassionate Classroom?
A compassionate classroom allows students to be the best version of themselves they can possibly be, with their own minds and their own voices. It's the kind of classroom your students can call "home." Every student is accepting and is also equally welcome.
The compassionate classroom is one that promotes safety and equality, and fosters excellence in its students. So the question is about how teachers can create this kind of classroom environment for their own learners? Here are a few ways to reinforce a compassionate culture within the classroom environment.
When a student feels safe and supported, they are willing to open up to discussing issues that affect them on deeper emotional levels. This may be slow to happen, but it does eventually. Once students know they can talk in a safe peer-supports environment, they will get some pretty lively discussions going.
It’s always important to talk about the behavior you want your students to emulate. Give demonstrations on being kind to others. Show students how to be kind to animals, for example, and what happens when you treat both with respect. If they see the positive outcomes of a certain behaviour rather than the negatives, they are more likely to respond and learn something constructive.
Do cooperative activities
Have students do activities together that will foster trust and respect. It is vitally important for the students to recognize what a compassionate classroom looks like, and how it must be cultivated to be successful.
Collaborative team-building games are perfect for this. If you need some inspiration, check out these links for some awesome game and activity ideas:
- Active: 10 Fun Team-Building Activities For Kids
- TeachHUB: 6 Awesome Cooperative Classroom Games
- Synonym: Activities to Increase the Sense of Belonging in Middle School
- Huddle: 10 Quick and Easy Team Building Activities
It's in your hands
As the teacher, your role is to help the students feel as if they have the ability to do anything they set their minds to. This adds value to the classroom and forms appreciative bonds among the students. It is important to set boundaries, but also let students know that when they fail at something they can just brush themselves off and continue their goals.
One of the most important things you can do as an instructor is to ask questions. Make sure the students are engaged and attentive. This helps to build personal connections through critical thinking, which helps them evaluate not only the topic, but themselves and others. Creating an environment where everyone is on the same level and working toward the same goal is invaluable in making progress.
Checking in with the students to get a pulse on their feelings and where they stand in terms of their relationships and in creating the ideal compassionate classroom will create synergy in and out of the classroom. These techniques can also be used school-wide to promote a bully-free environment where everyone works together to attain their goals.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in 2017 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.
Originally published Oct 24, 2017, updated September 17, 2021