The Hechinger Report recently reported on a new, masters-level course called ‘Compassion and Dignity for Educators’ being offered at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Excerpts from the piece appear below:
The ability to understand a child’s struggles — and then do or say just the right thing to help them through — is arguably the skill society prizes most in its teachers.
Books have been written about it. Movies have been made about it. Indeed, many assume all teachers are innately compassionate.
But educators at one university say compassion is something that can and should be taught. A new course, called Cultivating Compassion and Dignity in Ourselves and Our Schools, offered by the University of Colorado, Boulder, teaches the practice of compassion, and the philosophy that guides it.
In the course, teachers learn about techniques for “settling the mind” to allow for better focus and “setting an intention” to provide a higher goal before a difficult interaction. For example, before a meeting with parents who a teacher is worried might be angry, the teacher would stop, take a deep breath, and set an intention to stay calm and find a solution for the child.
To be compassionate means taking action to relieve suffering. Taking action moves teachers beyond just having empathy, which can be stifling when faced with crisis after crisis, to having agency.