Teaching and Leading with Compassion

“How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant of both the weak and the strong, because someday in life you will have been one or all of these.” – George Washington Carver

My son wears his personality from head to toe

My son wears his personality from head to toe

The quote above is one of my all time favorites. I have always believed in the power of relationships as they are the key to success in any arena. In a classroom, relationships are the difference between student success and failure. Believing in students in one thing. Knowing them well enough to understand how to reach them in their world is another. Relationships are the key to understanding. Understanding is a key component of compassion. You can’t possibly understand how to help students envision where they want to go unless you know where they have been.

The best post that I ever read didn’t come from a teacher via twitter. It came from what one would consider a “disconnected” educator via facebook, which he does not use for education. An amazing math teacher named Anthony Escobedo wrote:


Quotes from my students, grades 9 -12 yesterday: I was born in Ethiopia; I am from California but neither surf nor skate; I lived in Russia for two years; I finished my book last summer and am now searching for a literary agent; I like hugs; I had cancer at a young age and because of this I am now a water diabetic; I speak and understand a Nigerian dialect; I have 12 deers; I was born in Japan; I am a survivor; Spongebob is my inspiration; I am too hard on myself; I have no memories of my real dad because he moved out when I was two weeks old; I have Aspergers; I have had multiple jaw surgeries; I have a speech impediment; I don’t live with my mom or dad; I love Garry’s mod; I am a nationally ranked water skier; and probably close to 850 other facts from my 110 students. I’m barely sure what happened, but I’m pretty sure I now have 6 very tight communities of classrooms. A remarkable day.


Anthony is successful at what he does because he invests his time and energy into understanding his students. He doesn’t focus on the mistakes that they may make in life but instead looks to what drives them to be who they are and uses that in his classroom.
The time invested in getting to know learners is what solidifies the foundation by which we will reach them. It doesn’t matter if your pool of learners are teachers or students, the process works the same way.
Everything about them…fears, loves, passions, dreams, failures…are puzzle pieces which connect to drive them. Getting to the depth and core of a person will enable you to make meaningful connections and understand their journey in a much deeper way.
It can’t be forced and it doesn’t happen overnight but it must happen in order for learners to truly achieve success.
How does one go about making such connections? It happens through authentic conversation and real interest in what students have to say. It also happens through their creativity. When you allow them to bring their world into learning, they will tell you who they are.
Your job is to listen, connect and inspire their learning.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *