Through the Eyes of an Educator: Cultivating Compassion, Kindness, & Empathy

by Stacey Ebert / Jan 03, 2022 /
Stacey Ebert's picture

We’ve turned the calendar page. As December has now come to a close, the lessons of the previous year hover between one year’s end and the other’s beginning. The old, the icky, the struggles, the issues of that past year shift into the focus of lessons learned and goals for a new year. Not necessarily resolutions or musts, but with the learning and unlearning of our past, we set our sights on a brighter tomorrow. Whether the learners in your house are in the throes of beginning to read, collecting dinosaur eggs, cultivating calculus skills, studying for graduate school, or creating time in their day to learn something new with older eyes, lessons of growth are vital for a flourishing tomorrow. 

Through the Eyes of an Educator: Cultivating Compassion, Kindness, & Empathy

Today, more and more schools are incorporating social-emotional learning (SEL) into their curriculum. We’ve crossed a threshold where mindfulness and meaning hold weight alongside maths and movement, yet there’s still work to be done. While that social-emotional learning has begun to dip its toe into the mainstream educational scheme, it’s up to us to encourage our young learners to up the ante and dive in. 

kids jumping for joy. From Through the Eyes of an Educator: Cultivating Compassion, Kindness, & Empathy

For centuries, we’ve known there’s more to education than the stats, rigor, and tests. We’re 100% certain that there’s no one way approach to learning, and that it’s imperative to make room for all learners, always. Regardless of whether you’re in traditional schooling, homeschooling, a hybrid version, or at one of the institutions that are stepping into the fold of SEL, it’s up to us to encourage that character, creativity, and compassion beyond the doors of the facilities.

Let’s turn the page together—towards a more compassionate community. 

In today’s world of 24-hour news cycles and constant megabytes of data quite literally whizzing around us at lightning speed, we are the ones who must choose to turn down the noise and seek the quiet. Flipping over that calendar page or scrolling into the new year reminds us to take stock of the good, focus on the growth, hold onto the hope, learn from the lessons, aim for that awareness, manifest a mindset, and set a course to be more true to ourselves. 

Child reading outside. From Through the Eyes of an Educator: Cultivating Compassion, Kindness, & Empathy

Perhaps you’re the student who chooses a word as your mantra for the year. Perhaps you’re the learner who aims to write down your good choices and drop them in a jar to recognize those moments at a later date. Perhaps you’re the journal writer, the meditator, the helper, or the one who intuitively chooses to do more good whenever they can. However you aim for that personal growth, however you find the courage to be more authentic, however you make the effort to lift up, sparkle, listen, learn, engage, and use your heart, do more of it

Education is about human beings growing, flourishing, thriving, and offering a heart and voice to a greater world. In this new year, I hope we can all find ourselves practicing more compassion, kindness, and empathy with others—and towards ourselves. 

Welcome to the turned page, friends. What will you do with this blank slate?

Blank slate surrounded by leaves and flowers. From Through the Eyes of an Educator: Cultivating Compassion, Kindness, & Empathy

Five steps to infuse social-emotional learning into your daily lives to cultivate more compassion, kindness, & empathy

Offer a hand

Sometimes, especially throughout the past two years, our perspective atrophies. In a world where it’s easy to focus on oneself, reignite that perspective and lend a hand to others. Constantly engage those heart muscles to activate an attitude of kindness. Share, listen, give, help, and employ the strategy of doing what you can with what you have. No matter the action, no matter the size, no matter the method, every little bit of kindness helps far more than the receiver. 

With each act of kindness, we are all a bit better humans.

Many hands. From Through the Eyes of an Educator: Cultivating Compassion, Kindness, & Empathy

Get creative

There’s much said about the benefits of creativity. With coloring books for all ages, meditative pottery classes, music therapy, the parts of the brain that activate with play, and medicinal effects of gardening and more, adding a bit of creativity to stimulate each of our worlds is worth it. 

Whether you journal, draw, share, play, craft, wiggle, dance, build, or one of a million other methods, getting creative enhances your ability to engage with others as well as oneself. Creativity isn’t measurable, yet the benefits of its efforts accelerate constant growth.

”To practice any art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow. So do it.” Kurt Vonnegut

wave of color. From Through the Eyes of an Educator: Cultivating Compassion, Kindness, & Empathy

Listen more

Listening is a skill. Perhaps we learn to listen in a kindergarten share circle, when told to stay quiet during storytime, or even in our comprehension of oratory. Perhaps we try when watching television, in the middle of a phone conversation with friends, or even amidst a problem-solving session. 

Often, we listen to respond, to learn, to understand, or to engage...yet it’s rarer to actually listen actively, seeking a more conscious effort to fully grasp the message along with words. 

Encouraging this active art opens minds, hearts, eyes, and ears. Perhaps, along the compassionate journey, we also intuitively learn to listen to the messages our own souls are speaking. 

Two women perched on rocks by the sea, listening to each other. From Through the Eyes of an Educator: Cultivating Compassion, Kindness, & Empathy

Take time and care of you

Depending on where you look, some of today’s world is incredibly over-scheduled. Whether it’s parents, kids, students, athletes, or the world’s workers, there are countless boops and beeps of our electronics and calendars tugging us in all sorts of directions; this doesn’t have to be. 

We all have the power to slow our own roll. 

Perhaps it’s a few deep breaths before moving to the next meeting. Perhaps it’s recognizing that we need more time, a deeper pause, or a day to do absolutely nothing. Whether it’s taking care of one’s own mental health, physical health, or emotional health, it matters. Your growth mindset, the learning and unlearning, the focus that you are enough? All of it—it matters. Part of that slowing down allows us to clearly see more of what brings out our best selves. Whatever that is, take time to do more of it.

cup of steaming hot beverage, implying rest. From Through the Eyes of an Educator: Cultivating Compassion, Kindness, & Empathy

Extend your heart

A grateful heart is an exceptional asset. Gratitudes help to illuminate the darkness. From a young age, we’re taught to work hard, study hard, put our best efforts forward, practice our lessons, do our homework, complete tasks, and boost our fitness levels. 

All too often, our life teachers have been remiss to not include messages about elevating our gratitude practice

Sometimes it’s about extending our hearts to others, and other times it’s about extending our hearts to ourselves. Gratitude—that act of being thankful—allows anxiety to ebb and fulfillment to grow. Gratitude realigns our thinking to focus on what we already have...and not what we think might be lacking. Gratitude shifts the perspective, lights a path, and, in doing so, extends our ability to see. Whether it’s a journal, a poem, a mantra, a message, a thought, an offering, or in your own way, engage gratitude. Eye-opening practices often provide gifts we might never otherwise experience.

Hands making a heart in front of a sunset. From Through the Eyes of an Educator: Cultivating Compassion, Kindness, & Empathy

 

Stacey Ebert, our Educational Travels Editor, is a traveler at heart who met her Australian-born husband while on a trip in New Zealand. Stacey was an extracurricular advisor and taught history in a Long Island public high school for over fifteen years, enjoying both the formal and informal educational practices. After a one year 'round the world honeymoon, travel and its many gifts changed her perspective. She has since left the educational world to focus on writing and travel. She is energetic and enthusiastic about long term travel, finding what makes you happy and making the leap. In her spare time she is an event planner, yogi, dark chocolate lover, and spends as much time as possible with her toes in the sand.

Check out her website at thegiftoftravel.wordpress.com for more of her travel musings.