The way to a child’s mind is through their heart.
Our job as educators is to find the pathway to the hearts of children, form a relationship and then provide opportunities for them to connect to the hearts of others. The groundwork for building a nurturing, safe and supportive learning community starts on the very first day of school and continues to weave itself throughout each interaction. As a classroom teacher, I strive to cultivate compassion in my students so they enter the room each day (and subsequently the world) and create a life of significance that contributes to the greater good.
Creating an environment that is built upon the tenets of social-emotional learning and ethical literacy reaches far beyond adopting a specific character development curriculum. Allowing time for shared learning of each other is key to building empathy and perspective. Children are provided opportunities to share their family and personal values and culture. Through a variety of activities children begin to learn how others see and experience the world. Children are exposed to a variety of lessons/skills that support their development in this area: active (whole heart) listening, self-awareness (What does my best self look like? What presents itself when I’m not my best self?), effective communication skills, self-regulation, how body language and tone of voice portray feelings, recognizing feelings in others, how to ask questions before forming judgment, how to use respectful discourse when a conflict arises, and more.
We learn what it truly means (and feels like) to have a group of people around us who are there to support us every day. We develop an awareness of how our choices and behaviors affect others and the environment. As children’s awareness, language development and skill sets in these areas are developed, there are more occurrences of pro-social, empathetic and cooperative behaviors. We see less peer conflict: less me and more we. Within the walls of the classroom, we model and demonstrate a caring community that provides students with a framework and lens through which to walk into the world as constructive, altruistic, and kind individuals.