Compassionate Schools

It’s not sufficient to simply think that compassion is important. We must transform our thoughts and behaviour on a daily basis to cultivate compassion without attachment” – Dalai Lama

What is Compassion?

The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all world traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated. Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world, and to honour the inviolable sanctity of every single human being and living creature, treating all without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect.

What is the Charter for Compassion?

The Charter for Compassion provides an umbrella for people to engage in collaborative partnerships worldwide. Our mission is to bring to life the principles articulated in the Charter for Compassion through concrete, practical action in a myriad of sectors. Given one wish and $100,000, Karen Armstrong is changing the world. In February of 2008, Armstrong, a respected scholar who studies the connective tissues between world religions, was awarded the TED prize for her groundbreaking work. With that funding and the support of the TED organization, to grant one wish, Armstrong chose to focus on compassion.

Specifically, she asked TED to help her create, launch and propagate a “Charter for Compassion, crafted by a group of leading inspirational thinkers from the three Abrahamic traditions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam and based on the fundamental principles of universal justice and respect.”

In November of 2009, the Charter for Compassion was born. It grew from contributions of more than 150,000 people from 180 countries, and was crafted into a succinct, 312-word pledge that allows room for all faiths by a panel of leading religious scholars. More than 107,000 people have pledged to uphold it.

Why Compassionate Schools?

Cultivating compassion in schools and creating the kind of culture where it is a norm of student and staff behaviour, may seem at first a noble ideal: a nice-to-have, something to be undertaken only when all other priorities are met. Yet, it is now evident that a school’s ability to foster real learning, indeed to fulfil its fundamental purpose, depends on its ability to do just that.  Students and adults alike thrive when their social and emotional needs are met, when they feel a sense of belonging, when they feel their voices are welcomed and heard. Choosing to uphold the principles of compassion is central to a school’s ability to create a caring and inclusive culture and climate, to nurture a strong moral identity among those who walk through its doors, and to invite deep participation and learning. What’s more, compassionate action is foundational to effective collaboration, and to advancing the common good—attributes that, in today’s increasingly connected world—are central to success. A compassionate school begins with the adults on campus walking their talk and modelling compassion to all.

In today’s world when there is an ease of information availability and new innovations are being done each day, technology disrupts every part of human existence. At the same time, there are growing incidents of disorientation, depression and dissatisfaction among young children. Hence, there is an immense need for focusing on values such as compassion, tolerance, acceptance and peace along with imparting education to make our children future ready.  Without a focus and a vision on imparting the values of compassion and empathy in today’s children, the education isn’t complete. That seems the only way that we can prepare responsible and compassionate citizens of tomorrow who can sustain themselves, care about each other as well as are loving towards their environment.

What is the Compassionate Schools Charter?

The Charter for Compassion invites schools to sign our Compassionate Schools Charter which states”

We—the students, teachers, staff, and parents of (named place of learning) declare our shared commitment to the following principles, and pledge to hold ourselves and one another accountable to their realization.

We recognize that every person shares a common humanity capable both of happiness and suffering. We pledge in our words and actions to treat everyone in this school community as we would wish to be treated, to help those around us who are in need, and to make amends when we cause another pain.

We recognize that we are a school with different abilities, body sizes, races, religions, classes, gender identities and sexual orientations. We pledge to step into the shoes of others and see how things look from their point of view, especially when we disagree or find ourselves in conflict.

We recognize that intolerance and hatred cause suffering and that that when we stand by doing nothing, or laugh or post comments online when others bully, we contribute to the problem. We pledge to stand up to bullying and make this a school where everyone belongs.

In signing, we commit to practice the values in this Charter within our school community; in our daily interactions, whether teacher-to-teacher, teacher-to-student, or student-to-student; and in the projects we undertake within our community and in the world.

Many schools within and outside India are affirming the Charter and adopting Compassion as a key core value.

The DLF Public School, Ghaziabad is one of the few such pioneer schools in India, which is leading the way with its deep commitment and action towards compassion. The school has also taken the baton to spearhead the way to make its city of Ghaziabad, a compassionate city.

Multiple activities and programs have been conducted and more are underway through this partnership of the Charter for Compassion and the DLF Public School. Details of these activities would be shared in our subsequent posts.

Compassionate School – DLF Public School, Ghaziabad

Preparing caring, courageous and concerned citizens – of the world, for the world!”

                                                                                                –              DLF Public School Vision

As part of building Compassionate Schools Network across India, we kicked off the first session namely,‘Stars of Compassion’, a program for school children on Empathy and Compassion designed by the Charter For Compassion, India, that took place at the DLF Public School, Ghaziabad on 9th October, 2018. Facilitated by one of the Charter for Compassion members based in Delhi NCR, Ms. Rakhee Sharma, an experienced Mindful Leadership Coach and Global Goodwill Ambassador, this session was attended by a group of around 27 student leaders from grades 9th-12th along with school counsellors. The session was very well received and appreciated by the students, teachers as well as the leadership team at the school. These student leaders will further cascade their learning to the student body. This was a critical first step towards establishing a shared vision and the beginning of a  long-term association between  the Charter For Compassion, India and the DLF Public school. From our interactions, the wonderful shared vision of a city wide initiative “Compassionate Ghaziabad” program has emerged, which is being spearheaded by the school, in collaboration with the Charter for Compassion team.

‘Stars of Compassion’ Session Overview

“So what do you expect out of this program today, what are you ready to give in and take away from the session?”. This question from Rakhee was good enough to kick off the free flow of ideas among a group of 27 students in the age group of 14-17years at the DLF Public School, Ghaziabad last Tuesday. Further asking them to get in touch with a happy moment in their life helped the participants get in touch with their emotions, emphasising the importance of listening to one’s body and taking ownership of it.

Videos, Games and Activities helped in clearing doubts connecting participants to the four primary emotions. This led to the understanding that everything we feel is essentially a derivative of these four emotions, post which, the participants were engaged in a privilege game. In a circle formation, participantstook a step forward on an affirmative answer to the question being asked, leading to distances and spaces emerging between them. An introspection followed about what they felt at that point in time, helping children to understand their position of privilege.

Participantsopenly spoke about and sharedtheir emotions such as guilt, helplessness, anger, frustration connecting with their own lives and immediate circles. It was encouraging to listen to various ideas and witness the resolve of student leaders to make an impact around them using compassion and empathy as vehicles.

Using the tool of Empathy Map, an activity of triads, wherein participants played the roles of an interviewee, interviewer and an observer, we  brought forthvia stories, an array of emotions that led to a deeper connect amongst students.  By understanding the importance of the gift of presence, participants went beyond their comfort zone to share, listen as well as observe.

The session concluded with a dialogue on the importance of Circle of Compassion and Interbeing. Emphasizing on the interdependence in the circle of life as well as the need to understand that only compassion is the tool which can make each one of us live and feel complete, ended the session touching the participants deep at various levels.

What the students and teachers had to say…

“I felt like sharing because other person was listening. People don’t care usually. I felt heard.”

“I could connect and relate with what she was sharing. I asked questions which were open ended, which I felt allowed the other person to speak and share.”

 “This was the first session where I was asked what do I want from the workshop. Every time it is what the instructor wants me to teach. That was an intriguing factor and I loved it. Most of the conferences we go to, we are shown a presentation, flowchart but here it was about sharing.”

We often confuse between talking at intellectual level and wholesome level, between thoughts and emotions but the session helped me distinguish between the two. It was a wake up call in many ways. We are really looking to the next session at the earliest.”

Compassion has to start from oneself and then only it can encompass everything around. The session brought forward various perspectives such that compassion wasn’t an abstract concept anymore, it became relatable and children could share and bring about various experiences and perspectives.”

Plantation of seeds of compassion has been done by today’s session. Seeds are sown and fruits are to be born. We all see a shared dream of seeing compassion around us, I hope we are able to take this forward together…”    – School Counsellor

The way forward

An idea is as good as it is implemented and sustained properly. Possibilities are immense and together we need to move towards the bigger goals and vision.

Next steps

  • The Charter For Compassion, India and the DLF Public school, Ghaziabad are excited at the prospect of making the DLF Public School a role model school in driving compassion across schools and within the city. The teams have formed a joint working group to spread the word about this vision and work on social media.
  • MsRakhee has been added to the school WhatsApp group with students who participated in the session. Each student will identify one act of compassion which they would be doing for the next one month till the next session and keep Rakhee looped in through WhatsApp.
  • The next session is scheduled on 1-December where we would talk and take forward the vision of ‘Compassionate Ghaziabad’ program.
  • To ensure that program reaches and benefits more students, future sessions to be planned to include more student leaders apart from Empathy Managers / Council of Compassion at the school. (special focus children).
  • Teams are working together atop create a sculpture of a Tree of Compassion, a symbol that stands for the school’s commitment towards this agenda. This is planned to be unveiled on 29-Dec
  • The Alumni meet scheduled on 29-Dec would be focused on compassion as well and an outcome of the 1-Dec workshop along with a street play is planned to be shared on this day. A pledge signing is also planned on this day.
  • The school’s annual event in April would mark the announcement and kick off of the Compassionate Ghaziabad project and would include activities and dialogues to identify and sign up for the Compassionate Ghaziabad project

Link to some pictures and videos of the session.Below is the link which provides a peek into the session through some pictures and videos.