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Promoting Kindness and Compassion in the Classroom

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.
—Plato

Remember when you were a student and you wondered how you would make it through the last few weeks of a semester? As major deadlines approach, both teachers and students can find themselves becoming a little antsy. While juggling client deadlines and inputting grades, keep in mind that your students are struggling as well. Between classes, papers, projects deadlines, critiques, exhibitions, and outside commitments such as jobs and internships, many of our students are running on fumes. Here are some tips to maintain compassion and civility throughout your class.

  • Put things in perspective: When students come into class, they are often rushing in from elsewhere, their minds buzzing with looming deadlines. Invite them to remember that your classroom is a stress-free zone (not a laid-back zone, but a stress-free one). Try beginning the class with a five-minute meditation or remind them that this class is just a small segment of their whole lives. Encourage them to eat well, exercise, and have good sleep habits even during busy times.
     
  • Help students get organized: When students have clear-cut deadlines, sample rubrics, and ample work time, it can give them the structure that is needed to push on when times get tough. Come into class with handouts outlining due dates or send out a reminder email to bring their work to the next class. A little structure can go a long way.
     
  • Bring out the Buddha: The Dalai Lama said, "If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion." Keep that in mind when you are working with your students—a little kindness, compassion and understanding can make a huge difference in the life of a 19-year-old who is stressed, over-caffeinated, and on the brink of tears. Remember back to your student years and think of what helped you through the stressful times.