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Author: Bridget Knight, CEO: Values-based Education International


Our world, in manifold ways, needs us to have a compassion-based mindset more than ever. Values-based Education advances in everyone a more compassionate outlook, more compassionate thoughts -and so, kinder actions. We know that both the big and the tiny compassionate choices we make in our behaviour towards others will have a transformative effect on thousands and thousands of children and their families.


As we go into the new term once more as values-based teachers and leaders, we need to remember to treat ourselves with compassion too. After all, if you are reading this now, you are probably the lynch-pin for values in your classroom, school or setting. That means Values-based Education needs you – and you need to take care of yourself!


Here are some top tips about practising self-compassion from The Oxford Handbook of Compassion Science (2017):


- Learn to recognise your own emotions and communicate them positively to others: this physically changes how you perceive the emotion. Calmly saying, for example, ‘I feel angry’ makes a space in your brain for you to regain control and act positively and compassionately within yourself.


- Practice compassion meditation: this involves making time for self-reflection with the emphasis on why you like yourself, the idea is to show yourself compassion, despite intimately knowing your flaws. You then turn attention to the people you love, including them in your compassion and gratitude. Finally, think of the difficult people in your life, those towards whom you feel active hostility. It takes practice, but the aim is to wish they too might be filled with loving kindness and peace.


- Acknowledge Compassion in Others: witnessing other people being altruistic not only improves your feelings of optimism about humanity but also boosts your desire to help others. It fosters moral elevation, a powerful emotion that is part of the awe family, this emotion increases the prefrontal cortex’s control over more primitive emotional circuits that are responsible for the fight or flight response, so that you are able to deploy more executive decision making.


- Practise Gratitude We live in highly individualistic societies but we have not evolved to be self-sufficient. Our pro-social brains have developed in line with the benefits that derive from our interdependence with one another. Essentially, having supportive relationships in place helps us survive, the simple act of practicing gratitude and appreciation of others helps us to value that support.


Other great ideas include keeping a Congratulations Diary – record something that you feel you did well each day. It doesn’t matter how big or small your achievement: you will be amazed at how much you have achieved when you remember!


Be a compassion-focussed teacher. Studies have shown that the children of parents who make time to practise their own self-care benefit over the longer time. Eat well, take time out to exercise and see your friends; relax with hobbies or practise meditation- and get enough sleep in your favourite bed linen! It’s not selfish: it’s simply self-compassion!


Looking to develop Values-Based Education in your School?


If you want to begin your journey towards becoming a values-based school that you set aside a training day when all teaching and non-teaching staff can attend and be an active part of this process of transformational cultural change.


VbE will fall at the first hurdle if you make up a list of values and tell the school community that these are our values! Involvement and ownership is key to the success of VbE.


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