Empathy, Compassion and Healing Our Planet
As a teacher for 23 years, I have learned that one’s capacity for empathy and compassion provides a platform for love, life and making a difference in our fragile world. When guiding students to fall in love with the Earth, I feel a sense of urgency to seal their bond with Earth before they graduate and venture off into the mainstream of high school and beyond. Year after year, I reflect on how strongly we have impacted our students in such a way that they develop a commitment to healing our planet. Some years I feel as if we are sending them off with a fire ignited within their hearts. I can only hope that their passion for what they know to be good and right does not get extinguished.
Every year is so different. My students are all unique. The dynamic of each group is so unpredictable. One critical factor that seems to influence the journey of my eighth-grade fledglings is their capacity for empathy and compassion.
All things are connected
I believe that our connections to each other, self, Earth, and the other-than-human world to be the greatest healing factor in our world plagued by disconnection, separation, competition, and individualism. It is our relationships that link us to the thread of life. It is our inner wisdom of knowing that we are all united as one humanity. The discovery of self and awakening to the beauty of what it means to be part of something much larger than ourselves is an overarching goal I have for all of my students. There are many experiences for them designed with the purpose of strengthening relationships and improving social and emotional wellness.
Growing their love for our Earth and all that she encompasses is a prerequisite to developing a desire to protect her. At the same time, providing various opportunities for civic engagement is also an integral component of our curriculum. Ultimately, unveiling the common thread aids in guiding my students to believe that they are not alone and empowers them to find meaning.
When I look at my young and vibrant students I see hope–hope for our species on our withering planet. We need each other, our Earth community. Building meaningful relationships begins with empathetic, unconditional love. I am blessed to work in a school devoted to growing the capacity of empathy and love within our students. I have witnessed the power of mutually enhancing relationships and how the synergistic results surpass the mere potential of any one individual. Our home is on fire, and our collective efforts just may be what we need to save ourselves, our Earth community.
I am inspired by the young people of today and their courage to do everything in their power to change the course of time.
~Maggie Vetter, TIES Alum
(Join Maggie and others who work with and care for adolescents for the upcoming adolescent symposium)
Symposium: Exploring Teaching and Learning with Adolescents