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Finding the Way to More Compassionate Learning

By Melanie Holland, CEI Intern

‘If you want others to be happy, practice compassion; if you want to be happy yourself, practice compassion.” The Dalai Lama

In July, CEI is hosting a seminar at the NAESP Annual Conference, with a panel of educators and also Mark Weiss of Operation Respect (see paragraph 5 below). In discussing our plans, one of our colleagues suggested that to understood more about how to teach others about compassion, we consider the work of Paul Gilbert. Gilbert referenced the above Dalai Lama statement in an introduction to his model of compassion focused therapy. The model is based on the premise that leaders best instill the trait of compassion in their students by consistently demonstrating compassion.  Compassion is a theme of underlying moral development, reduction of bullying, and an increased understanding of both the self and others. It is not enough to have the feelings of compassion; both teaching professionals and students need to feel empathy’”the deep understanding of another’s suffering’”to create a compassionate attitude that can and will lead to compassionate actions.

According to Gilbert (2009), “Individuals subjected to early experiences … can become highly sensitive to threats of rejection or criticism from the outside world and can quickly become self-attacking: they experience both their external and internal worlds as easily turning hostile.”

Gilbert’s Attributes of Compassion include: care for well-being, sensitivity, sympathy, distress tolerance, empathy, and non-judgment. Gilbert also describes Skills of Compassion, referring to the creation of warm feelings, kindness, and support through conscious actions, utilizing imagery, reasoning, behavior, sensation, feeling, and attention.

CEI’s Compassion/21st Century Leadership and Learning Seminar at the NAESP Conference. CEI is delving more deeply into compassion and we invite you to share with us your needs, concerns and recommendations for compassionate schools. CEI firmly believes that compassionate learning environments allow students to manage their emotions, act empathetically, resolve conflicts nonviolently, learn more, and better communicate with their peers and elders.

To share with others who are like-minded, CEI is hosting a special seminar on Saturday July 12th 2014 in Nashville to help deepen your understanding of compassionate learning climates, heart centered learning, and neuroscience, and to learn from you.

At that CEI session in Nashville, CEO Dr. Christine Mason will  begin with a discussion of your interests and then during this 90 minute session she will moderate a panel of educational leaders who will address 21st Century Leadership and Learning, including:

  1. NAESP Mentor Trainers: Drs. Kathleen Sciarappa (NH) and Nancy Phenis-Bourke (IN): Principal Mentoring

  2. Dr. Michele Rivers Murphy (MA, CEI Research Associate) on the Power to Choose

  3. Heather Smith, Principal, Lilja Elementary School in Natick, MA, on Implications of Neuroscience for the Classroom

  4. Drs. Melissa Patschke, PA and Kathleen Sciarappa on Virtual Principal Simulations (a program with the University of Pennsylvania)

On July 12, Mark Weiss, the Education Director of Operation Respect, will join us to demonstrate the approach he uses when problem solving with schools. Mark has been with Operation Respect for over a decade. He was a New York City school principal for 20 years, founding the first alternative high school in the Bronx in 1979 and leading that school for 13 years. He then founded a New Visions 6th-12th grade public school’”School for the Physical City’”in 1993 heralded in a New York Times Magazine cover story as ‘A City School Experiment That Actually Works,’ leading that school for more than 7 years.

Weiss will guide a discussion on Operation Respect: a national nonprofit organization dedicated to the development of respectful, safe and compassionate learning communities. Operation Respect disseminates educational resources designed to help school leaders create climates that reduce emotional or physical cruelty and build positive relationships.

At the session, Dr.Mason will dialogue with attendees to get their input on the purpose and practices of CEI and its collaboration with Operation Respect to build climates conducive to deep compassionate learning.

The CEI session is immediately following the discussion and performance by Peter Yarrow of the folk singing trio, Peter, Paul and Mary. From 8-10 am on July 12, Peter and Mark will describe the  national and international work of Operation Respect during that session.

If you are coming to Nashville’”let us know! CEI seminar attendees will receive an early version of CEI’s new publication- Heart Beaming– and also a copy of the CEI Heart Centered Education Rubric, which can be used for planning, observation, and feedback sessions.

This special seminar only has space for the first 40 responders, so please contact if you would like to join the seminar at Graylord Opryland, room Delta Island C in Nashville, TN from 8am-11:45am.


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