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Creating Compassionate and Caring School Environments for All Students

Updated: May 27, 2021

By Michele M. Rivers Murphy, Ed.D., CEI Research Associate

Tend well the garden of your soul’…  Live strong with purpose and compassion’…

As we begin a new school year, we reflect where we have been and where we are going, and what we need to do differently to make a difference in the lives of our students. The Journey begins now .

My Professional and Personal Journey

Last month marked the beginning of an incredible journey.  I had the distinct pleasure of travelling with CEI’s Executive Director, Christine Mason as we were set to participate on a CEI panel addressing CEI’s innovative 21st century leadership, cutting edge heart beaming activities and heart centered educational approach and rubric, joined by Mark Weiss and Peter Yarrow’s Operational Respect format at the NAESP Conference in Nashville, TN.  Chris was warmly welcomed wherever we went and her genuine passion for creating compassionate and peaceful school environments worldwide was evident by the many happily receiving her time and conversation.

It was an eventful week marked by an extraordinary lineup of keynote speakers, with heartwarming messages of inspiration beginning with Robert Fulghum (All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten) Where Have all the Mermaids Gone presentation on imagination; the Honorable Sandra Day O’Connor, U.S. (first female) Supreme Court Justice and the importance of civic education and participation in our school; and CEI’s very own, Peter Yarrow, a lifelong social activist for peace, hope and compassion for people and children around the world.

Imagination                                      Civic Action                                                     Compassion

Imagination, Civic Action, Compassion

Peter Yarrow has the extraordinary ability to bring people together from all different backgrounds, cultures, parts of the country and world through a dance of meaningful storytelling, song and play.  His Walking the Walk Together presentation was transformational.  Peter represents the best of humanity, good over evil, and triumph over tragedy while hypnotically capturing the hearts and minds of his audience, through a powerful blend of song, storytelling and audience interaction that has traveled and transcended the most painful boundaries of hearts, tragedies and war torn nations.  He is artful, magical and imaginative all in one.  In his hour-long majestic and spellbinding message of love, compassion, hope and understanding, his personal tours and travels from Concert for Newtown to the implementation of Operation Respect in schools across Israel’s war torn nation, Peter managed to strengthen what binds us as individuals and people’”love, compassion and song, dispelling any divides, leaving every person changed somehow, moved to tears and wanting to do more for our children, our schools, and our world.

Bridges that Bind Us’… that which does not divide us, strengthens us’…Nurturing, Healing, Love

In a strange twist of fate, my travels from Nashville and two short days later to Connecticut is where my journey continued, with my heart remaining open to all that would come next.  If I was not prepared for the extraordinary week in Nashville, I was equally humbled as I attended an all-day conference for Newtown, CT teachers.  The conference initiated by Scarlett Lewis, mother of Jesse Lewis, a six year old killed at Newtown Elementary and the founder of Choose Love Foundation.  The gathering was held at the very intimate setting of Oronoque Country where a small group of educators experienced an extraordinary day of healing, empowerment and a force of genuine compassion and forgiveness, exercised during the worst of times.  Amongst the most unthinkable, unimaginable, and heinous acts, a mother’s love for her son triumphs through Jesse’s message left on the kitchen chalkboard of their home shortly before his death :  Nurturing, Healing, Love.

The Choose Love Foundation provided presenters from President Obama’s sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng’s Ceeds of Peace, The Hawn Foundation’s MindUP to Dr. Chris Kukk’s Building Compassionate Schools, all of which weaved a journey of hope and promise that collectively WE CAN  make a profound difference in our students, our schools and our world.

Build Communities of Compassion, Make a Difference for our Students and Consider the following links to help you get you started:

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