When asked to write a “back to school” article, a myriad of topics came to mind that could be focused on like the importance of routine health check-ups and scholastic exercises that help prepare children for achieving academic success. I could remind parents about their child’s reading lists and impart statistics that connect high school graduation scores with reading scores. Instead however, my heart leans in a much different direction. Routines and preparedness are in fact important for planning a child’s education, but in reality plans do not always go according to plan. It is in the between stages of life when children and parents must come together on core values to prepare children for school. Compassion is one that is the most valuable of all in 2011. To help a child experience and understand compassion is key. Children do not always show compassion on the playground when someone gets hurt or in the classroom when a classmate has trouble answering questions. As parents and teachers, it is our job to model compassion and to teach children that every individual is unique. Modeling compassion is underlined by teaching a child that every person has unique gifts and that those gifts, what ever they may be, are given for a reason. Too often in public schools children are just numbers, never taught that what they have to offer as individuals is important. How elementary teachers empower students with knowledge must leave room to remember that children are still children and that each child has something worth respecting and nurturing. Children come to school with disabilities, giftedness, handicaps, language barriers, emotional and social needs that are more demanding than an “average” healthy child’s. Whether a child’s needs are big, small or “average," every child should grow to understand his or her worthiness. With so much focus on 21st century integrated technology in classrooms and with the amount of hours children spend on computers today, lessons on basic human civility are more important now than ever before. Children who rely heavily on technology; i.e., social media networking, e-readers, ipads, iphones, ipods, “I” and “web” everything, prometheans, all digitalized and wireless gadgets for example, are children who are leading a new culture of dehumanized people in a sense. These resources are feeding into a lack of empathy, resourcefulness in the real world, and an ability to show or understand compassion. This school year I urge parents who are fortunate enough to share technology with their children to set aside time to teach them about the value of the land we walk on and the air we breathe. Nature and the people around us are what’s real when all else is gone. How prepared or resourceful will our children be in 30 years if another hurricane Charlie hits or if war breaks out in our neighborhoods? How compassionate will our children be in 30 years when unemployment still exists and poverty reaches someone in every child’s family? In America we are blessed with rich land and an ability to come together to help one another. It is in our founding heritage, in our constitution, and in our proclamations that we are one nation under God. We must continue to enrich our children’s lives with an understanding of civility and compassion. We must teach our children strength that comes not just from knowledge, but from ingenuity, resourcefulness, and hard work. In these efforts, our children will grow and prosper for the following generations. America will continue to draw people who seek refuge, love, work, liberty, and prosperity. Teaching compassion at an early age does more than help children through elementary school, it helps prepare them for middle and high school when the need for compassion exists with high stakes. High school graduation and the achievements of honors students is far more competitive today than decades ago. In a time when students are graduating with above 4.0 gpa’s and already taking college classes in high school, the pressure to be on the forefront of high achievement status may not be for all students, nor should it. Students should respect each others’ choices with compassion and obviously within school policies and the law. School pressures are high, many classrooms are bursting at the seams, and technology is capable of dehumanizing our youth. Let’s teach our little ones now about compassion. Hold their hands and tell them how much they are loved. It will definitely help steer them through the unknown discrepancies of school life while they learn, grow, and discover how to contribute goodness to society.
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