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How to Develop Compassion in You and Your Students

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January 02, 2024


Compassion – a welcomed trait amongst all walks of life. It’s a trait that plays a factor in the success of many roles, especially that of a teacher, and can benefit all parties involved.

Compassion in Teachers

Teachers are known for being amongst the most compassionate of professional workers. Being compassionate brings many benefits not only to those on the receiving end of the compassion, but also to the person who is compassionate.

In reality, teachers are prone to compassion fatigue, a condition that effects up to 40% of teachers.

Teachers start to feel “resentful rather than resourceful, detached rather than delighted, and exhausted rather than excited.” If they have reached this point, teachers may need to actively work to redevelop compassion in their lives.

Compassion in Children

Anyone who has worked with children knows that compassion can be difficult for many children to develop. Kids come hardwired to get their own needs met, and while they can develop compassion, it is a learned skill. For kids on the autism spectrum or with other learning and behavioral difficulties, developing compassion must be taught explicitly.

Benefits of Compassion

Researches at happify have compiled statistics on just how much compassion can benefit us. Here is what they found:

People that are kind to others are just happier
Statistics show that when we take the focus off ourselves and our own problems, it tends to make us feel happier.
Negativity is contagious, but so is kindness
Those who are kind and compassionate have an increased chance that those around them will ‘catch the bug’ of being kind and compassionate themselves.
Compassionate people are healthier
They get sick less often and live longer.

Compassion, What we know

Demographics The most compassionate people are

– Older women
– Resilient people
– Those who have recently suffered loss

The Profound Effect on Others

Researchers found that doctors who have a better bedside manner and more compassion have healthier patients.

It makes sense then that teachers that are compassionate would have students who learn more easily.

Compassion Reduces Racial Bias The empathy we develop when we practice compassion increases for those of different races and therefore reduce our bias.

Retail Therapy? Those who bought things for others experienced longer-lasting happiness than those who bought things for themselves.

Developing Compassion in Adults

So, do you want to be more compassionate? There are a few ways you can develop compassion.

Compassion meditation: This particular type of meditation focuses specifically on developing compassion.

– When you meditate, find a phrase to use over, and over such as ‘may I be at peace.’
– First, direct compassion to someone you like. ‘Practice’ using compassion first toward someone you have good feelings toward: a good friend, helpful coworker, or cooperative student.
– Next, be compassionate with someone a bit more neutral: the cashier at the grocery store, a neighbor you don’t know well, or a coworker you don’t see often.
– Then, take it up a notch by directing compassion toward someone you have trouble with: a student that is has behavioral challenges, a parent that is difficult, or a coworker that you usually avoid.
– Finally, turn your compassion to all those in your life.

Acts of Kindness: Another way to develop compassion is to do five different random acts of kindness all in one day. The effort and impact of doing these all in one day can be life-changing. A few suggestions to get kids involved in giving acts of kindness include:

– Write a note or card
– Bake cookies for someone
– Give a compliment
– Take a meal to someone in need
– Donate food or money to a local homeless shelter.
– Pay for the order of the person behind you in the drive-thru or checkout line.
– Do a chore that is usually your spouse or child’s responsibility

Developing Compassion in Kids

The benefits of compassion for kids are as significant or perhaps even more significant than for adults. Focusing on developing compassion in kids actually created greater academic gains than focusing on achievement. Just like being compassionate results in better health, kids who are compassionate on average get better grades and do better on achievement tests.

How can we help kids develop compassion?

• As with anything else we want to teach kids, we must model what we want kids to develop.
• Teach kids mindfulness. Children can benefit from identifying their emotions and from meditation.
• Help kids practice compassion. Talk them through their feelings when they are kind to others.
• Teach kids to practice gratitude. They can keep a gratitude journal or regular share what they are grateful for in their lives. Be sure to make the connection between their gratitude and warm feelings.
• Create a classroom culture of compassion and regularly focus on making your classroom a place where kindness is often given and received.

The benefits of compassion are far-reaching for you and your students. Time to take a moment to determine how you can incorporate these findings from this infographic at happify into your classroom and everyday life.

Amy Curletto has been teaching for 12 years in grades K-2. She has a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood and Elementary Education and also has endorsements in reading and ESL. Besides education, her other passion is writing and she has always dreamed of being a writer. She lives in Utah with her husband, her 3 daughters, and her miniature schnauzer. She enjoys reading, knitting, and camping.

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