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39. Regarding The Heart of Learning & Teaching

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Good Morning Families, today is Monday May 18th 2020 and it is now time for a moment of SEL.

This week, we are going to deepen our understanding of compassion.

We are going to do this using the book we introduced on Friday, The Heart of Learning and Teaching: Compassion, Trauma, Resiliency, and Academic Success.

Just to remind you, this book comes from OSPI and full, free download is available at I would encourage you to download and read. Aside from all the great learning, free book! And who doesn’t like free?

Today we are going be using the very basics to begin our shared understanding and like all good Social Emotional Learning programming we are going to start by establishing some common expressive language.

That means we’re going define some words so we all can share in the meaning.

The words are compassion, trauma, resilience, compassionate school, and school-community partnership.

These words are essential for understanding as we learn together. These definitions come straight from the book, The Heart of Learning and Teaching and if you download the free copy you can find these on page xiv which is Roman for 14.

Compassion – A feeling of deep empathy and respect for another who is stricken by misfortune and the strong desire to actively do something about it. The human quality of understanding the suffering of others paired with the desire to help alleviate it.

Trauma – An umbrella term denoting the inability of an individual or community to respond in a healthy way (physically, emotionally, and/or mentally) to acute or chronic stress. Trauma occurs when stress compromises the health and welfare of a person and his/her community.

Resiliency – The ability of an individual, family, or community to withstand and rebound from adversity. Resiliency research is the study of how some students, despite stressors in their lives, manage to adapt, and in some cases, thrive.

Compassionate School – A school where staff and students learn to be aware of the challenges faced by others. They respond to the physical, emotional, and social challenges faced by students and families by offering support to remove barriers to learning. They do not judge the situations or responses to others. They seek to understand and support.

School-Community Partnership – A relationship between the school and community to achieve the goal of helping students and their families find the resources necessary for support and assistance. The partnership is based on cooperation and responsibility to achieve this goal.

So we are starting this week with the first part, compassion.

Let’s be sure we understand that definition again.

From the book, “In other words, compassion is the human quality of understanding the suffering of others paired with a desire to help alleviate it. It may be worthy to note that the virtues of compassion may be found in nearly every spiritual and religious tradition.”

But did you know that humans might have compassion hardwired into our biology as we have spent many thousands of years evolving? See for people to be able to walk on two legs, we have to have our babies in just 9 months, because humans also have real big heads for our giant brains. At least that’s what many some anthropologists think. Anthropologists are people who study human society, development, and culture.

However, 9 months is not enough time for human babies to come out ready to care for themselves. In fact, babies need other humans to care for them entirely, they can’t even hold their own giant brained-heads up without help; cute little helpless babies.

Humans are some of the least developed offspring in nature, when they are born. So, caring for babies until they’re able to care for themselves can take anywhere from 6 to 46 years. Maybe longer. As we’ve developed the ability to care for our young, we’ve learned to extend that care to others; family members, friends, neighbors, community members, students, and even strangers. Humans have great capacity for caring for others, especially when we use our giant brains.

So how do you recognize and increase your skills of feeling compassion? One way is to think about all the things you care for. Try focusing on things like family, friends, classmates, neighbors, teachers, pets, animals, even characters in books and movies, in fact, maybe even nature or the Earth in general; anything that invites the feeling of care. Today, see if you can recognize some of those things you care for.

If it is difficult to find some things that you care about, try talking to a trusted adult or friend and see if they can help you identify things you care about.

Once you have identified some things you care about try turning on your skills of empathy. That’s a social awareness skill by the way. Empathy means being able to join in the feelings of others. As you think about those things you care about, see if you can join in how they are feeling. Practicing this with things you are familiar with could help you build up your empathy skills like a muscle.

However, compassion goes beyond just sharing in the feeling for others. With compassion there is also some action. We are compassionate when we act on those feelings in soothing, helpful, caring, accepting, and/ or other protective ways.

And here’s a great thing about compassion. It can be mutually beneficial. That means that everyone gets some reward.

See, when we act compassionately the people we express compassion for benefit and we benefit from a thing The Heart of Learning identifies as compassion satisfaction.

Compassion satisfaction is a term for the positive feelings we get when we realize that the compassion, we put into work with others is resulting in some positive change such as relief, growth, or healing. Compassion satisfaction is good for us too. But for today, just focus on the things you care about and on that good skill of empathy.

We look forward to connecting with you in whatever way we can tomorrow. Until tomorrow, may your thoughts and feelings be with you.

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