Andy Smallman has created a curriculum designed to help teachers engage elementary school students in the concept of compassion. WFIS Members who attended Private Schools Day in 2017 will remember Andy’s breakout session on Bringing Kindness into Classroom Curriculum. Andy has left Puget Sound Community School, the program he founded and built over twenty years, to start phase three of a life journey with his wife/business partner in Northern California. Below is Andy’s article for Medium that outlines his Compassion Curriculum for Elementary Students:
Over my nearly 30 year career as an educator, I’ve taught children from preschool through high school. In all the work I’ve done, I’ve made being kind, thoughtful, and compassionate a primary focus.
In this time, an important increase in what’s now called Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) has emerged. It’s been shown that children who grow in this realm do better in school, are happier, and feel more connected to each other.
In response to the number of requests I was getting to assist teachers interested in having some kind of SEL curriculum they could implement in their classrooms, I developed this five lesson program intended to be implemented over five weeks, one each week.
I use the metaphor of a power plant to deliver the five lessons to get students thinking about what gives them energy. The early lessons are designed to help them recognize external sources of energy, most likely adults they trust. Like how a power plant provides electricity that powers our homes, schools and businesses, these adults help power children.
As the lessons move forward, I encourage the children themselves to be conduits of positive human energy, passing it on to someone they’ve identified who can benefit from it. By the end of the five lessons, I’m hoping they have not only learned how to regularly pass positive energy on to others but have recognized how to become their own renewable power sources.
The curriculum focuses on compassion so it’s important young people are helped to understand what that means. I see an act of compassion as being something that lessens the suffering of someone or something else. So to be truly compassionate, you need to recognize when someone or something else is suffering.
To help young people do this, I suggest teachers begin by talking to them about when they’ve been hurt. Even a skinned knee story is useful for this purpose:
How did it happen?
How did you feel?
What did they do?
How did that feel?
Have you ever helped someone else who has a skinned knee?
How did that feel?
Once young people are opened to telling stories of this sort, more typically come cascading out.
Another word I use in this curriculum is ambassador, as in encouraging teachers to tell their students that they are “ambassadors of compassion.” I define an ambassador as someone who promotes an activity or an idea. So the idea here is for students to learn how to promote compassion through awareness and action.
If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to connect with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Side note, in 2015 I was asked to participate in a program hosted by public TV station KCTS in Seattle on school discipline. I talked about the importance of accountability, as you can see in the video below.
(I retired from the school I founded last June in order to better promote ordinary acts of kindness. Learn more at https://kindliving.net.)