Sonya Barnes August 9, 2019
Our world today is filled with people struggling. Our classrooms will also reflect that with students facing many struggles in their lives—some privately, some publicly. Some of our students will have been taught how to help others, some will know what it is what they want to have people do to help them and will do those things for others, and some will have no model for what it looks like to be compassionate to others. Education today is full of demands, and one of those is to help meet the social and emotional needs of the kids that are in our presence. It can seem like a daunting task—something else to have to add to our to do list. But it doesn’t have to be complicated, or even forced. Try a Compassion Corner in your classroom.
Many times, when events happen in society such as holidays or community or family events, we may feel called to action and do an activity in our classroom. But people need help, love and compassion every day and in many ways. By having a Compassion Corner set up in your classroom, you can allow for that to flow from your kids at any time without prompting. With regular, unscripted access, they will be able to act when they feel compelled and will learn how rewarding it can be for others.
It doesn’t need to be anything fancy. It can be a variety of paper, glue, scissors, crayons, markers, stickers, etc., and then drop boxes (think shoeboxes with slots in the top of them) for the designated recipients. A few guidelines hanging above them and some class procedures of when and how to use the station, such as if they finish an assignment early or if they need a brain break, and you just let it go. At predetermined times, you can go and empty the boxes and get them to the recipients. I do suggest that you have them sign only a first name for privacy reasons, especially it they will be going to unknown recipients.
So, who can be recipients of your classroom’s compassion corner? Well, there are always veterans deployed or ill in military hospitals that can use cheering up and most people are near a military base or guard unit, a VFW, American Legion or Daughters of the American Revolution chapter. First responders such as law enforcement officers, EMT’s and Firefighters work long hours away from their families, as well. Nursing homes often have folks that don’t see their families often and would love their day brightened by a picture or card. Homeless shelters are in many areas and may like to have a nice card or drawing to hang or distribute, some school districts even have a department devoted to helping them and distributing items in need—in our district it is called the Hearth Project. There are foster children and children’s hospitals in many major cities. If you want to think more locally, think of other children or employees in the school that could benefit from being told they are appreciated or awesome. Sadly, there are natural disasters all over the world and a note or card could help give them hope. There is really no limit other than your own heart and the time you may have to distribute them.
You don’t have to start big; you could choose one or two organizations to focus on for the year or for the term. But imagine the life lessons gained for the kids to have a chance to brighten someone’s day anonymously for absolutely nothing in return. Imagine the change in their day when they can take a moment away from their own troubles or from a challenging assignment and be important to someone else. Imagine the impact on the world by teaching children to have a heart for doing for others. What a difference we can make.