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Showing Compassion and Caring in the Classroom and Beyond

February 17, 2022
By Aisling Valle

As humans, compassion comes naturally. We learn to read body and facial expressions at a young age. Our compassion for others encourages us to respond to these expressions in the hopes of spreading love and positivity. The action of getting involved separates compassion from empathy, concern, and sympathy. 

In first grade we use the “bucket system,” based on the Have You Filled a Bucket Today?, Bucket Filling A-Z, and How Full Is Your Bucket books. Gooden School first-graders understand that everyone has an invisible bucket and when we show acts of kindness and compassion towards others, both our bucket and the recipient’s bucket start to fill up. We ask the students how they feel when they make a friend smile and they always say it fills their bucket too. For example, this week during lunch, a kindergartner was feeling down because her usual friend that she plays with was absent. A few first-graders saw that “her bucket was empty” and asked if she wanted to play with them. This small act of compassion resulted in new friendships and a fun lunch period for all the students involved. The students know that their compassion towards others is not just limited to their fellow students in the classroom, but to everyone around them, at home and at school.

            Caring and compassion at home can be practiced in many ways: feeding the homeless, donating old toys, making blankets for animals in shelters, volunteering your time, and so much more. But the most significant way to teach and practice compassion is to model by positive action and acknowledge kindness. Our students and children look up to us as role models. We want to lead by example, so our children will grow up as loving and tolerant human beings. I would like to end with a quote from Leo Buscaglia, the late American author and professor, to remind us that a little act of kindness, compassion or care will go a long way.

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”

Aisling Valle has worked in the classroom for 13 years and has taught for the last four years, most recently at St. James Parish Day School in South Pasadena. She received her bachelor's degree in multiple subject teaching for elementary education from Brandman University. She loves watching her students grow into independent, respectful, and kind lifelong learners. Mrs. Valle was born and raised in Los Angeles. During her free time, she loves to travel, camp, snowboard, and go on hikes with her husband and dog.