Compassionate School Practices
Fostering Children's Mental Health and Well-Being
- Christine Mason - Founder and Executive Director, Center for Educational Improvement
- Dana Asby - Director of Innovation & Research Support, Center for Educational Improvement
- Meghan Wenzel - Researcher, Center for Educational Improvement
- Katherine T. Volk - Senior Advisor, C4 Innovates
- Martha Staeheli - Yale School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry
Foreword by Larry Davidson
Health & Wellbeing | School Culture | School Management
Is your school prepared to care for all of the students, staff, and families in your community? Sadly, your school might be the only point of care for many. Be already ready--Establish a compassionate cultural foundation for strong relationships and holistic skills to weather stress, trauma, and promote well-being for your entire school population.
Help your school or district use available resources to create a compassionate culture of justice and care for all by leaning into this book’s approach to leadership and social emotional learning. Discover a collaborative visioning process to elevate compassion through dialogue, policies, and protocol. Readers will find:
- Practical strategies for working with parents and communities
- Activities for the whole school
- An implementation framework for elementary, middle, and high school
- Deeper understanding of trauma, ACEs, and mental health concerns
- Support for teachers’ mental health
- What not to do – practices that don’t work, and why
- In-depth case studies and vignettes
Read this and usher in transformational and compassionate change that may be the difference in whatever today, tomorrow, or the next day may bring.
Podcast: As Students Return to School, So Does School Violence
Because of the lost learning time during the pandemic, many schools are putting pressure on teachers and students to quickly catch up academically. But schools would do better to address social and emotional health services first, because 'trauma presents a huge barrier to learning'.
Podcast: Collaborating to Address Student Mental Health
All educators — all school staff — need to see themselves as part of a formal or informal mental health network whose members routinely collaborate to support sound student mental health. But they need to be supported by mental health practitioners and parents to provide the widest possible safety net for students. Martha Staeheli, Ph.D., explains in this Cultivating Resilience Podcast.
Chapter 8: How Schools Can Help Families
In this excerpt, the authors of Compassionate School Practices outline the importance of educators working with families as a team and how to do so.
This book is a vital resource for all educators who are dedicated to promoting student mental health and well-being. Built on a solid foundation of research and experience working with schools, Christine Mason and her colleagues offer readers key principles and actionable strategies, stories that illustrate and inspire, exercises to reflect upon and apply lessons to one’s own school, and references to numerous additional online sources. The heart and soul of this book are clear and present on every page—the centrality of caring, compassion, and community to the ability of students to thrive in school. I would highly recommend this book in ordinary times. In this period of uncertainty, unrest, and distress, it is indispensable.
This outstanding contribution to the literature on our students' mental health and well-being provides an exemplary blend of cutting-edge research, step-by-step practical interventions, and a true humanistic vision for the future of our schools and society. Before COVID-19 this book would have been important; today it is indispensable. Wherever you are teaching or working in the education sector, Compassionate School Practices is essential reading for all of us, both during the pandemic and in the years to come.
As schools begin to shift away from the industrial model of education, we see many implementing student-centered and inquiry-based practices that are designed to help students develop their curiosity and become more proficient thinkers and problem solvers. While these practices are laudable, the unaddressed mental health needs of many students will stand in the way of desired progress for all. Thankfully, Compassionate School Practices offers an easy-to-follow four-phase model and a series of nine principles to help school personnel, parents, and psychologists better support students’ social and emotional well-being. Simply put, the authors’ approach puts much needed structure into what for many educators may otherwise be just a vague directive. This book’s compassionate voice and sound tools unlock the promise that successful schools going forward will balance students’ acquisition and the demonstration of knowledge with proper attention to their social and emotional needs.
I started my career as a teacher in the New York City neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant where many students came to class hungry, sick, abused, homeless, or all of the above. It was then when I first realized the health and welfare of our students surpasses the importance of their academic achievement. That was 1968. Fast forward to today. Suicides rates are the highest they’ve ever been. Drug use is just as alarming, which begs the question, “What’s more important, scores on a test or keeping kids alive?” Compassionate Schools Practices unpacks a myriad of informative principles that can help school systems build a framework to enhance their social and emotional programs. The well-being of a child is of the utmost importance, especially during this public health crisis. The demand for quality SEL is at an all-time high. I applaud the authors for creating this resource.
Quality education cannot exist in the absence of compassion. And even if it could, it would be difficult - if not impossible - for such “education” to be applied in a way that would move humanity forward. This book provides a comprehensive and evidence-based blueprint for how to create a heart centered and compassionate school environment that allows all children - especially our most vulnerable - to heal, learn, and thrive.
When it comes to children's mental health, school is among the biggest stressors that kids have to deal with. Compassionate Schools Practices is the bridge that we need to redesign the school system in a way to meet the needs of youth. If we are able to implement at least some of the recommendations, all of us stand to substantially benefit!
Compassionate School Practices captures our imagination, with principles and action steps to strengthen student mental health and well-being. The authors offer a practical approach that goes beyond screening and identification as it promotes collective kindness and caring. Their blueprint for schools shows how to embed compassion into everyday interactions between teachers and students to bolster student self-esteem, while strengthening self-care practices. They show us how to uplift our neighbors and our communities so that schools first and foremost address what is most important -- the lives, the hearts, the souls of students, families, and ourselves. An inspirational work that is so needed today!
An important new look at how we can foster mental health in schools. Educators have the capacity to buffer against adversities their students face, and schools can lessen the impact of trauma and toxic stress. At the same time, teachers themselves face unique stressors. Mason, Asby, Wenzel, Volk, and Staeheli present numerous practical suggestions for promoting mental health and well-being among students and teachers alike.
In the midst of this horrific pandemic, there’s more than learning on the minds of educators. Many youth depend on teachers and their schools to connect with peers and caring adults. Mason and her co-authors provide valuable insights as they tell the story of the New England Childhood-Trauma Learning Collaborative - stories from principals, social workers, teachers and school psychologists, about how they are building student self-esteem and resiliency, and how they are teaching while addressing the critical needs of students who are most at-risk. Whether learning is virtual, hybrid, or in-person, caring leaders will be inspired by the network of practices, guidelines, and resources that Compassionate School Practices provides. An ideal book for book studies, an ideal blueprint for a brighter future, an ideal resource for transforming education and transforming lives!
The social and emotional health of students is interdependent with that of teachers and school leaders. But one-size-fits-all or piecemeal programs won't improve true resilience. Compassionate School Practices provides the tools you need to be intentional about identifying your learning community's current needs and your capacity to influence, no matter your position. And you'll discover research-based strategies for self-care, for assessing student needs, for increasing needed staff knowledge--and more--to create the safe and supportive environments that lead to serving and educating the whole child.