A lot of good feelings and thoughts have been passing around the blogosphere in recent weeks including the #1000Speak for Compassion project and, closer to (my blogosphere) home, the Carrot Ranch with Charli’s Mills’ flash fiction challenge and the responses by the Congress of Rough Writers.
Hearing these good things is good for my soul which could otherwise become burdened down by the cruelty that is experienced on a personal, local and global level.
Areas of Queensland and the Northern Territory were, over the weekend, devastated by severe weather, other states by fires, parts of the northern hemisphere by cold and snow. Nature itself is so destructive, why do humans think we have to add to it?
Many homes in Central Queensland were destroyed by damaging winds when the cyclone hit. In the early morning news the following day there were already reports of looting. It seems incomprehensible to me that people would do that to each other. Stealing from homes of those left vulnerable and sheltering in a community evacuation centre!
In the same bulletin there was a report about people receiving payments from the government while training to fight overseas for terrorist groups. The list goes on. The news media are not the best places for seeking uplifting stories or developing a habit of meliorism.
I turn back to my blogger friends for their stories of compassion and inspiration, and thoughts of how we can raise children to be kind, caring and compassionate.
My two most recent posts, Who cares anyway? and #1000Speak for Compassion, addressed the issue of compassion and received a number of comments which added more interest and value to the topic. Most of those who responded have also shared their thoughts about compassion on their own blogs, each post as individual as they. Here are a few links to get your reading started:
Charli Mills writes about Literary Compassion
Anne Goodwin about Compassion: Something we all need
Geoff Le Pard: Me, me, me; You, you, you #1000Speak
Sarah Brentyn: 1000 Voices for Compassion
Irene Waters: 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion – mine is but 1
Sherri Matthews: How to save a life
Christy Birmingham: To Writers Who Struggle with Self-compassion #1000Speak
Lori Schafer: #1000Speak about Compassion: Through the Eyes of a Rat
I am very happy to belong to a community that values kindness and compassion. As at least one blogger commented though, it may be difficult for someone who has not experienced compassion to express compassion for others. Compassion may be a natural feeling, but it also may need to be learned. It reminds me of those famous words, “Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” and also of a story shared by Lata on Hot Cup of Kaapi as part of the #1000Speak for Compassion project. (Note to self: Remember this!)
The author of this article, Joshua Block teaches at The Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia, which you may recall I mentioned in a post about Chris Lehmann and Visioning a better school, a better way of educating. I was certainly impressed by Chris Lehmann, so I expected to be impressed by this article and its suggestions, and I wasn’t disappointed.
In the article Block talks about the Academy establishing an Ethics of Care as described by Nel Noddings. I am both embarrassed and disappointed to admit that I hadn’t previously heard of Noddings but I will be looking more in depth at her work in the future. So much of her work is pertinent to these discussions we have been having about compassion, including her understanding of the terms sympathy and empathy, for example. The article about Nel Noddings, the ethics of care and education states that
“We learn first what it means to be cared-for. ‘Then, gradually, we learn both to care for and, by extension, to care about others’ (Noddings 2002: 22). This caring-about, Noddings argues, is almost certainly the foundation for our sense of justice.”
It sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
Block questions how he can create a more compassionate classroom without adding to the demands already placed upon him as a teacher. He wonders what a compassionate classroom would look like and suggests
“A compassionate classroom environment is not an environment that lacks academic rigor. In this environment, students are understood to be complex people. Here, young people feel that they belong. Here, they meet challenge and encouragement while we ask them to be the best versions of themselves. Compassionate classrooms are places where student voices and student ideas are prioritized.”
I do like the sound of that classroom environment.
Block goes on to suggest six practices that help to develop that environment:
- Remembering to Check-in
- Informal Conferencing
- Increasing Personal Connections with Content
- Asking Better Questions
- Expressing Belief in Student Abilities
- Being Flexible and Accepting Failure When It Happens
I think each of these practices could fit under the banner of being attentive, of really tuning in to the needs of the students. They are all great practices that should form the basis of establishing any classroom environment.
Now back to the title of this post and my flash fiction response to the challenge set by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch this week to: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about feeling good.
I trust that somewhere in Marnie’s life she had a teacher (or more) as compassionate as Mr J Block.
I feel good!
She stood at the door for one final glance. Not much had changed, but it felt, oh, so different. They were gone. Gone!
Almost twenty years had passed since she’d stood in this spot; since she’d fled their cruel ways. Twenty years of dodging shadows, double-locking doors, and fearing the phone’s ring.
But no more. They were gone. Gone! And for more than five years! Five years to track her down! All that remained was the house. She’d sell of course.
With the door closed behind her she almost skipped down the stairs, her heart singing, “I feel good!”
Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post or flash fiction.