About Compassion, Fear and Tolerance-

Firstly Happy New Year. I really hope you have had a very good and restful break over the New Year. Particularly after such difficult times we have endured in 2020 and 2021. Let’s hope 2022 bring us health, peace and some normality to the school year.

I thought I would like to start the year with a bit of a discussion about fear, compassion and tolerance and to talk about how important it is to recognise these emotions both in ourselves and in our children.

I have just read an article in the New York Times by Amanda Gorman. You may remember she was the young Afro-American poet who performed her poem at Joe Biden’s inauguration. The article talks of her fear of presenting as an Afro-American and how her family and friends begged her not to accept the invitation to present, for fear of her being killed. Despite this, Gorman went ahead and gave a most incredible performance, in my opinion. (https://www-nytimes-com.cdn.ampproject.org/c/s/www.nytimes.com/2022/01/20/opinion/amanda-gorman-poem-inauguration.amp.html)

What I like about this article is how she describes fear. How to recognise it and to accept it. She states ‘If anything, the very fact that we’re wary means we are, by definition, changed; we are brave enough to listen to, and learn from, our fear.’ 

How many young children are fearful of trying something new? Is it about failure? About ridicule? About a feeling of inadequacy, incompetency or just down right afraid? How do we unpack the reasons children have fear?

In ‘Flight of the Kite’ and ‘When I Grow Up’, Ginnie demonstrates fear. In the former book, Ginnie is frightened of being blown away when flying her kite. Through her own self talk, she negotiates with herself to conquer her fear and by being inventive, solves her fear by deciding to make a small kite so she won’t be blown away. What lesson can we teach our children to conquer their fears, or at least acknowledge them and accept them? I think we are all fearful of various things.

In the latter, ‘When I Grow Up’, Ginnie faces and overides her fear when her compassion for helping another being that is vulnerable and in danger (rescuing the kitten in the tree)presents itself.

Obviously there are not always situations in a classroom where compassion is the driver to shift or override fear, but I feel strongly that compassion is tied up with empathy which, as you know is about putting oneself in another being, whether human or animal’s, shoes. This is what the Ginnie & Pinney books strive to achieve. Teaching children to be empathetic.

In regards to compassion, Lyn White, AO of Animals Asia in her latest email talks about how ‘scientists (have) discovered that compassion is an inherent biological urge.’ I am not sure which scientists, however the idea that we are hardwired to be compassionate is a wonderful aspect of human nature.

So where do we go wrong? When we see two children fighting over ownership of a toy or one child bullying the other, where is the compassion? I think it is up to us as adults to encourage children to think about the ‘other’. To think about the ‘other’ as similar to themselves. Even when they look or act differently to themselves. It is up to us to help them negotiate a different way and to accept and tolerate differences.

In summary, accepting that we are all fearful, that we all must nurture compassion and tolerance are my thoughts a for commencing the school year of 2022.

Until next time.

Keep safe and well.

Penny Harris

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