A note: Please use these practices with the best intentions. Students can see through us when we lie or foster practices that do not include compassion. If we aren't coming from a good place we (at best) foster a distant relationship with students and (at worst) cause trauma and harm to our students.
I have long been on a journey towards a compassionate classroom and while I do my best to always answer with compassion I don't know that's it is a journey without an end. Each year, each month, week, and day provide new opportunities for me to re-establish compassionate norms and choose compassion for myself, my colleagues, and my students. To be clear, answering with compassion (much like gentle parenting) is not without boundaries or consequences, but it works with natural consequences and clear understanding of boundaries.
There are a lot of posts on these topics, but I want to highlight a few:
Today I want to touch on a practice I've been subconsciously cultivating the past few years: Listen First. It sounds simple, but I think there is a push in the teacher/student relationship (especially with all that we have to do) to skip this step and move on to the action piece of whatever situation arises. Ultimately, however, I think this sets us and our students up for failure.
I've been watching a lot of gentle parenting TikToks after they started showing up on my FYP and I quickly realised how in line they were with my own thinking. My parents did a form of this when I was a child, but it didn't have a name and it wasn't as popular as it is now. One thing that stood out to me is something I've been as vocal as I can be about since earning my Special Education degree. Behaviour is an attempt at communication. When students behave in certain ways they are trying to tell us what they need and they are using coping mechanisms that they've learned work through the various situations in their lives. Note: I am NOT trying to dig at any single person who is a teacher or parent. Once we understand that concept, we realise that in order to do anything, we must understand the need that is being communicated.
The longer I teach the more I realise that listening is always the first step with students. I have a policy that if a student is in crisis and needs me, I will do my best to help them as I can. This does put added pressure on me, but it also doesn't put me in a place where I have to fix everything. Here are some general examples of what this might look like. This is not exhaustive and not every option fits every instance
When we listen first, we can learn the unmet need and respond appropriately. Here are some questions I either consider myself or I ask students directly when listening first. N.B. Always make sure your students know that (1) you are imperfect and do the best you can (2) are coming from a compassionate place, and (3) are a mandatory reporter and that you have to report some things. If you do need to report something, please please please tell the student who experienced it before you report it so they aren't caught off guard.
This particular blog is dedicated to social justice workings in my professional and personal life.