Saturday, September 11, 2010

On the same page with the Dalai Lama

I noticed in the SF Chronicle that the Dalai Lama is giving $50,000 to the University of Wisconsin's Center for Investigating Healthy Minds. They will use it to see if positive emotions such as kindness and compassion help a person's brain be more resilient to life's hard knocks. While the Dalai Lama is thinking about meditation, and its effects on well being, I immediately thought of the more active work that can be done in school to foster kindness and compassion. There are so many times in a day when opportunities arise, from taking care of a school pet, to looking at a conflict from the other person's perspective. One of the parts of being in a school where all the ages have daily interactions that I love is how it allows older children to be involved in the lives of younger ones. On our playground one often sees a younger child turning to an older one for help. When younger ones join a mixed age game, more often than not the older students are encouraging and tone the game down to work for the younger ones. And when that doesn't happen, or a younger child feels unfairly treated, it can very quickly come to the attention of an adult who knows the older child, and can bring the parties together--taking the time to build understanding, and compassion. This requires Time: when children are playing and talking with each other, involved in activities together. Unstructured time is an important part of the mix, as well as a common understanding that working with "feelings' is part of what happens at school. i understand the Dalai Lama's focus on meditation, but I hope the folks in Wisconsin also study other pieces of what makes for healthy children's minds. I'd like that to include the difference that creative outlets make and the presence of situations where children can learn how to be kind and compassionate.

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