Compassionate Teaching: 5 Ways to Find Joy and Well-being for You and Your Students

Compassion is power.

Some associate power with the victors, the ultra-competitive, the publicity seekers, the sarcastic, the masters of Machiavellian tactics … the people we celebrate in contemporary society. Such individuals are often considered virile and heroic, but these strivers are frequently motivated by anxiety, not strength. 

Compassionate teachers are the opposite. They’re secure in their skin. They give. They reach out. They manage their emotions. They risk ridicule. They don’t seek self-promotion. Become that kind of powerful educator.

Teaching in Magenta, by veteran teacher and author James Alan Sturtevant, is about creating magnificent days. Magenta Teaching is a refreshing approach that puts your joy and well-being first so you can share those attributes with your students. It shares 100 paths for living and teaching in an authentic, enthusiastic, and relevant way. 

As you read this article, get inspired to rescue students with your compassion rather than anxiety or competition.

  1. Apologize

Apologies are powerful, but how often do you apologize to students? Perhaps you got frustrated yesterday and raised your voice in a kid’s direction. Or you were too aggressive with a reprimand. The target of your wrath may have only partially inspired your emotions in that moment. You may have been mad at your spouse or a colleague, or you are harboring frustration from the previous period’s behavior.

Today, apologize to any kids who absorbed your outburst. You could pull them aside in the hall before they enter class, or—and this takes courage but has great power—apologize to them in front of the class. “Maria, I came on too strong at you yesterday. I’m sorry. I care about you! I shouldn’t have done that.”

  1. Pump the Brakes

Sarcasm seems harmless. You make a joke at another’s expense. If you have a close relationship with your target, they might not mind; they may even enjoy the barb. But limit sarcasm in the classroom, particularly if the teacher is the one who’s doing the dishing. Remember, this tactic involves making the target look bad. This is not the atmosphere you want to foster.

Humor in the classroom, or in life in general, is wonderful. But today, refrain from making that sarcastic statement on the tip of your tongue. Instead, see if there’s a more positive way to insert levity. 

  1. Reach Back

You parade into class amped for the day’s lesson. You launch into your sales pitch, but you become discouraged when you notice that a student is not listening to your enthusiastic introduction. Instead, she is looking down at her phone and consuming a social media post. The post she’s reading is just as interesting to her as the Taiping Rebellion is to you. Stay encouraged and amped up. You were young once, too.

Granted, you may have been a highly motivated youngster, but you no doubt had plenty of distracted friends. Today, just be cool and remember your youth. You have the opportunity to influence this student, and your efforts will be more fruitful if they come from a place of acceptance rather than anger.

  1. Prepare for the Question

Teachers generally dislike hearing, “Why do we have to learn this?” It often seems like the questioner is attempting to throw cold water on your lesson. It’s understandable for a teacher to get frustrated by this prompt, but today, welcome the prompt as an opportunity. When you think about it, it’s a perfectly fair and legitimate question.

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So go ahead and prepare an outstanding response. Craft such a marvelous response that you provide it to students whether or not they ask the question. Rather than getting upset about the question and overreacting, be prepared to answer it daily. 

  1. Get Moving

When office environments are portrayed in movies and on television, working at a desk or in a cubicle is scorned. And yet, it’s exactly what we require students to do every day. Today, break this negative norm. Sure, you might be confined to a small classroom populated with lots of bodies, but that doesn’t matter. Get your kids up and moving.

Perhaps they rotate through stations. It could be that they perform a skit. Maybe they get collaboration appointments with classmates. Perhaps they exit the room and go on a QR code scavenger hunt. Or it could be that the kids must come up to your desk and retrieve their handouts. Get those youngsters moving. Don’t allow your room to look like another scorned workplace in a sitcom.

Every teacher can find joy and well-being for themselves and their students if teaching compassion is their daily goal. When you read Teaching in Magenta, you’ll find one hundred powerful paths, gleaned from over three decades of teaching, that lead to compassionate teaching. 


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