SIP 10.8 Compassion on Campus

Thirsty for a Strong Instructional Practice?

Theatre professor talking with students.Last week, the SIPsquad dished on the stress and anxiety surrounding working in “crisis mode.”  As a follow-up this week, we would like to consider how to embed compassion into our practice as faculty and staff.

Being aware of the distress students and faculty are experiencing and wanting to help lessen it can lead us to improved outcomes in the classroom and in our work across campus. Taking steps to be compassionate professors and colleagues can also enhance our own feelings of satisfaction around our work.

Take a SIP of this: compassion on campus

Practice compassion toward students:

  • Assume that your students are operating with best intentions.
  • Even though your students’ problems may not be your problems, acknowledge that they are real. We are far beyond the days of “my dog ate my homework” and deep into serious and tricky situations that may impede the timely submission of homework, the ability to arrive on time to class or other aspects of your students’ performance.
  • Be forgiving. Recognize that a student’s behavior on one day in class or their performance on one exam or assignment might not represent who they are as a person or scholar. By using the basic tenets of Universal Design for Learning, you can build in “second chance” opportunities that will allow your students to truly demonstrate how they are achieving the outcomes of your class despite any roadblocks they might encounter over the course of the semester. Try incorporating opportunities for revision or alternative ways of showing competency into your syllabus from the outset. Check out these SIPs on different ways to incorporate UDL into your class.

Practice compassion toward colleagues:

  • Assume that your colleagues are operating with best intentions.
  • Think in terms of what you have in common with your colleagues: You are both facing pressure from your bosses; you are both trying to move your career forward; you are both trying to do the best job possible. Even if you disagree, remember that you are similar in terms of your desire to do well.
  • Each day, find a small way to be kind to your colleagues. It does not have to be labor-intensive – send a 10-second email of appreciation; pop your head into someone’s office and say, “Happy Monday!” These tiny actions can have a huge impact on you and on them.
  • Be forgiving. Discuss perceived slights openly and collegially, keeping in mind the nebulous intentionality of tone in email and the fact that your colleagues may have stuff going on that you are not aware of. Ask, for example, “Hey – your email sounded kind of gruff. Is there something I can do to make this collaboration better?” and hope for (and offer, when it is your turn) an honest answer like, “My baby was up all night, and I am tired, not giving email my full attention today.” Honesty can go a long way toward cultivating the empathy and compassion we need to practice with our colleagues.

Practice self-compassion:

  • Try hard to do your best and recognize that any perceived shortfalls are not the product of lack of effort.
  • Engage in self-care to help yourself maintain a positive attitude and healthy approach to work-life balance.
  • Be forgiving. We are often hardest on ourselves. But developing a strong sense of compassion that we can exercise with others must begin with being kind to ourselves.

Still thirsty? Take another SIP of this: compassion on campus

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