Compassionate School Leadership In Action

In a popular video clip, Brene Brown, author of Dare To Lead, describes the core components of empathy. Two of these components are recognizing emotion in someone else and communicating that recognition. In other words, “Empathy is feeling with someone,” Brown states. Empathy is essential for connection with others and is the foundation of positive relationships.

Our educators are stressed. Current conditions bring new and seemingly insurmountable challenges and scrutiny and criticism from community members. Educators’ central reason to be is being tested daily. For those who support educators, of course empathy is needed. But statements of empathy offered in support, may land in a way that conjures up the classic image of the kitten hanging on a tree branch with the word “hang in there” scrolled across the screen. Feeling with our educators is not enough right now.

For this reason, I deliberately use the word compassion. Compassion is defined as feeling with someone in a way that “motivates one to relieve the suffering of others”. Compassion leaders are inspired to action.

Compassionate Leader Action Steps:

  1. Recognize the signs of stress and burnout in school staff. These could include irritation, complaining, difficulty concentrating/ brain fog, withdrawal, absences, physical symptoms (headaches, chronic pain) and insomnia.
  2. Respond to what you are seeing. Follow up with a quick check in: “I noticed ___________ , how can I support you with that?”
  3. Regulate yourself when working with staff. Regulated leaders support regulated educators who support regulated students. Build breaks into an educator’s schedule to allow time for self-regulation activities.
  4. Refer educators to seek mental health support, and normalize seeking out support as part of coping with stress. Start by learning more about SaintA Clinical staff who specialize in caring for Educators.
  5. Reengage with staff individually one to two weeks later to demonstrate that you truly care. In the course of hectic school life, it is helpful to put a note to check-in on your calendar or to-do list.
And remember, leaders need support as well. Reach out to your colleagues in other buildings and seek professional support as needed. We can do this, but only with compassion.

This article was originally posted in SaintA’s Compassionate Schools Newsletter. Sign up to receive the next issue directly in your inbox!


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