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Teaching With Compassion

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compassionI think all educators lose sight of the big picture from time to time, myself included. We are so busy doing what we think we MUST: grading the papers, making the copies, sending the emails, and perfecting the lessons. Do we always find time for the things we OUGHT to do? Do we smile more at our students? Do we say hello in the hallways? Do we compliment our students? Do we ask them how they are doing– really doing– and wait for the answer and actually listen?

On my good days, sure, I do these things. On my bad days, the days I am caught up in doing what I think I MUST, I send a child over to the stacks alone, telling myself I’m teaching independence when really, I just want to finish the email I am writing. When I am too wrapped up in my own agenda, I scribble the pass to the library for lunch, barely looking up at the human being in front of me.

I’m not perfect, but on my good days I’m making an effort to connect more with my students, and I’m not going to connect just with the students who are always pleasant and easy to like. I’m going to make an effort to connect with every student. Is it frustrating when a child expects me to help him or her print an assignment with two minutes left in the lunch period before the late bell rings? Sure. But you know what? I’m going to spare those kids the lecture. I’m going to make a joke or crack a smile and just relax a little. We don’t have to be so serious all of the time. Kids forget to do their homework. They procrastinate. They don’t need me to pile my judgement onto them. There is a fine line between teaching responsibility and being sanctimonious, and I am going to tread that line very carefully.

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Sometimes I wonder if we expect more from our students than we expect from ourselves. How many times do we run late? Or forget things? Or lose something important? If you’re like me, you do these kind of things a lot. I like to think I’m still a good human being despite shortcomings like these. Maybe my shortcomings make me an even better human being because it allows me to be more compassionate to others who are like me. By the way, if you are looking for a place to practice compassion on those who run late, forget things, or lose belongings, a school is a really good place to start.

I’m going to teach with compassion, patience, humanity, humor, and acceptance because that’s what my students deserve.

Jennifer Kleinknecht has been the media specialist at H.B. Whitehorne Middle School since 2007. She writes about life as a school librarian on her blog, “The ‘Yes’ Librarian”

Photo by Mayur Gala on Unsplash

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