Classrooms, Compassion, and Contentment

By Meghan Wenzel, CEI Intern

Ask someone to share his or her vulnerabilities, and you will likely receive a horrified look or nervous laugh. For most, vulnerabilities are weak spots, shameful imperfections to hide from others. But Brené Brown sees them differently. She sees the power in accepting our vulnerabilities and choosing to love ourselves and others in spite of them.

As humans, we are biologically wired for connection, with belongingness and love being our most basic psychological needs (Maslow, 1943). Brené Brown found that the only difference between people who have a strong sense of love and belonging and those who do not, is that the former believe they are worthy of love and belonging. We have to practice compassion, open up about our vulnerabilities and insecurities, and believe we are worthy of love. In order to really connect with others and form deep relationships, we have to allow ourselves to really be seen.

Brown notes “vulnerability is the core of belonging, love, creativity, and joy.”

  • Instead of living in fear, we need to face our vulnerabilities head on and accept them.
  • We need to realize that we can be loved despite our flaws, and see that sometimes our vulnerabilities can actually make us stronger.
  • By exercising compassion towards ourselves and being courageous enough to share our full selves, we can make more authentic connections and live more fulfilled lives.

As principals, administrators, and teachers, we need to work on bringing vulnerability into the classroom and school as a whole to create a more genuine and rewarding environment. Being conscious and non-judgmental about our vulnerabilities is the first step, and then we must lean in and share them with others.

Compassion – Accepting our Vulnerabilities

Compassion and practicing self-love is the first step in accepting our vulnerabilities. We must be kind, open, and accepting to ourselves as well as others. Brown reminds us that unfortunately we cannot selectively numb the bad; because with the bad we numb joy, gratitude, and happiness. Thus, we must practice compassion and acceptance in order to live a more satisfying life.

Helping your students develop socioemotional skills, empathy, and growth mindsets are all great ways to make them more compassionate and accepting individuals.  Here are some related recommendations:

Foster socioemotional development (Ho & Funk, 2018).

  • Listen with your full attention and restate what students say
  • Accept and acknowledge students’ feelings and emotions
  • Show an interest in each student and make each person feel valued

Teach students about the power of empathy (Wilson & Conyers, 2017).

  • Teach students about different points of view and how disagreements often result when people do not realize the other has a different point of view
  • Use literature to teach students about different perspectives and gain empathy for people not necessarily like us
  • Develop metacognitive awareness

Emphasize a growth mindset (Zakrzewski, 2013).

  • Praise effort over outcomes
  • Teach students about the brain, how we learn, and neuroplasticity
  • Set high expectations and goals, but offer students the tools and support they need to achieve them

Helping Students Feel Comfortable and Content

By incorporating opportunities for students to develop emotional intelligence, resilience, and self-love, you are teaching them invaluable life skills that will serve them well inside and outside the classroom. When students feel understood and valued, they become more confident in their abilities and perform better. When they feel more comfortable in their own skin, they are more content – they are able to form deeper relationships and connections, which is crucial for healthy development. Fostering an open, welcoming, and accepting environment will lend itself to happy and healthy students who are ready and eager to learn.


Ho, J., & Funk, S. (2018). Promoting young children’s social and emotional health. Young Children73(1), 73-79.

Maslow, A. H. (1943). A theory of human motivationPsychological Review, 50(4), 370-96.

Wilson, D., & Conyers, M. (2017) 4 proven strategies for teaching empathy. Edutopia.

Zakrzewski, V. (2013). How to help kids overcome fear of failure. Greater Good Magazine.


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