January 2021: Renewing our Commitment to Cultivate Compassion

Happy New Year, SEL fans. Already, 2021 has been eventful.

Recently, our country witnessed a shocking and traumatic event in our Capitol city, reminding us of the crucial importance of equity and intentionally cultivating compassion.

As our country struggles through this dark winter of a continuing global pandemic and related economic instability, deep political division, collective grief, and the undeniable reality we face around white privilege, power, and racial injustice, there is so much hope – and that hope starts with each of us, and how we intentionally cultivate connection and compassion, and utilize our SEL competencies to create opportunities for healing.

Skills We Need Now

The Collaborative for Academics and Social and Emotional Learning, in its Reunite, Renew, and Thrive Roadmap for Reopening Schools, offers the SEL Competencies adapted to be relevant to our current sociopolitical context:

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CASEL also just released a Refocus on the SEL Roadmap document to guide schools as they begin the spring semester. Because CASEL serves compassionate educators who know how deeply the socio-political environment affects their students in classrooms at every level, they also suggested these resources for classrooms navigating feelings and discussions around traumatic news events:

Growing Compassion and Connection

Like many skills and capacities, we grow our ability to be compassionate by practicing compassion. Per Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, compassion consists of four components:

Bringing attention or awareness to recognizing that there is suffering (cognitive)

Feeling emotionally moved by that suffering (affective)

Wishing there to be relief from that suffering (intentional)

A readiness to take action to relieve that suffering (motivational)

This article contains the Six Habits of Highly Compassionate People, with concrete ideas on how to address each of these components to cultivate compassion in our lives. And this Edutopia post offers some simple ideas for incorporating more opportunities to grow compassion in classroom environments.

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Intentionally building compassion and connection in our lives and educational communities is actively working against the hate and division that literally attacked our nation yesterday. Educators in particular are uniquely positioned to touch countless young lives with compassionate teaching and practices, modeling and promoting the skills we all need to live together and take care of each other in an ever-changing and interconnected world.

Martin Luther King, Jr., whose birthday we celebrate this month, offers these inspirational quotes:

1. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

2. “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.”

3. “An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”

4. “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”

5. “We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.”

6. “Not everybody can be famous but everybody can be great because greatness is determined by service. You only need a heart full of grace and a soul generated by love.”

7. “We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right.”

8. “Only when it is dark enough can you see the stars.”

9. “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

10. “So even though we face difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream.”

Image by Platt College – MLK’s inspirational quotes blog post

May we lean into Dr. King’s vision of peace, equality, compassion and understanding now, more than ever.


How do Dr. King’s words resonate for you? How are you inviting more compassion into your life and your classroom? Leave us a comment, and tag us on social media @austinisdsel!

We are so grateful for the local, national, and global community of compassionate educators doing the work of SEL along with us in this new year. Cheers to you!

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