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Education Lab is a project to spark meaningful conversations about education solutions in the Pacific Northwest.

September 15, 2014 at 5:00 AM

‘Compassion’ sounds soft but demands action, new website says

It’s easy enough to say you value compassion in schools, but quite another thing to actively practice it.

Monday marks the launch of a new social-networking website created by Seattle educators to boost this important but oft-overlooked trait by providing parents, teachers and administrators with tools for building more compassion into their schools.

“People’s emotional states really affect the way their lives turn out, and their personalities are being shaped in school,” said longtime fifth-grade teacher Peter Hubbard, who works at Lawton Elementary in Seattle. “So we need to be deliberate about how we’re developing children. Social isolation is definitely an issue. The kids who are stronger psychologically survive and go into war mode  they’re just toughing it out. But it’s still a pretty alienating experience.”

Enter the Compassionate Schools Network, a website where users can interact with one another around specific topics (similar to Facebook). The site also features a resource-sharing center focused on five areas: community service, mindfulness, re-imagining education, environmental stewardship and social-and-emotional growth.

Scarlett Lewis. Photo by Bettina Hansen / The Seattle Times.

Scarlett Lewis. Photo by Bettina Hansen / The Seattle Times.

Signing up is free, and users will be able to upload lesson plans and videos. Hubbard helped launch it in consultation with Scarlett Lewis, whose son Jesse was among 20 children killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012.

“There is a great and aching need in our society for proactive measures to be taken with compassion in education,” she said.

Lewis spoke about this in greater detail with the Seattle Times and local educators last month. She believes compassion consists of two primary components. The first: identifying with another person’s feelings. The second involves action  actually doing something to respond.

“We believe that there is no one ‘right’ way to implement compassion in education, nor is there a catch-all prescription for what schools, parents, and educators need to do in order to provide a compassionate education,” said Karli Anne Christiansen, program director at TisBest Philanthropy, which helped create the site and continues to act as a partner. “The Compassionate Schools Network is a space where needs, questions and ideas can be put forward by the members themselves.”

Comments | More in News | Topics: Compassionate Schools, Scarlett Lewis

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