On the Journey
news reel: stories of People, places, and learning AT Aspen Country Day School
How Aspen Country Day School fosters compassionate listening in the classroom
by Jennifer Bohnen, Head of Lower School
Our monthly theme for December is Compassion. The Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education at Stanford University notes that "Compassion includes kindness, empathy, generosity and acceptance. The strands of courage, tolerance, equanimity are equally woven into the cloth of compassion. Above all compassion is the capacity to open to the reality of suffering and to aspire to its healing." (Feldman & Kuyken, 2011).
At Aspen Country Day School we intentionally design classroom communities that teach and model compassionate listening. When clear ground rules for respectful communication are established from the outset, classrooms become a safe place for students to share with each other and find support for their growth and development. In the Lower School at Aspen Country Day, you'll find teachers creating compassionate communities throughout the day by embedding compassion into their regular daily lessons and in their morning meetings. Social and Emotional Learning Coordinator Morgan Henschke weaves compassion into her weekly class meetings with Kindergarten through Fifth Grade students with grounding lessons, reflective practice, and activities.
In a recent class meeting, Morgan asked the Fifth Graders to ponder the meaning of compassion. Here's a response from Leena S.:
When students feel heard, validated, and understood, they are better able to figure out a solution on their own, whether the challenge is academic or social.
Teachers strive to foster these six principles:
- Be fully present
- Know listening is enough
- Respond with acceptance
- Understand conflict as part of real-life learning
- Ask authentic questions to learn more
- Be gentle with yourself
Last Friday, two Fifth Graders led a Lower School Assembly with compassion as the theme. They led an activity to practice compassion and also showed a favorite video.
Teachers at Aspen Country Day School strive to create inclusive social spaces in which everyone feels a sense of belonging. Compassionate environments not only foster respect and acceptance; they integrate emotional and cognitive processes, enabling students to think more clearly.