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How Can We Teach Compassion?

By Casey Ainsworth, MHS Middle Division Teacher

“Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime.” –Maimonides

I start every school year by sharing this quote with my students. Teenagers aren’t often viewed as having respectable world views, but when asked to explain their opinion on this quote, they are spot-on.

They often say, “We have to teach others how to do things, but allow them to struggle through it sometimes.”

So how can they translate this to their everyday life at MHS? Throughout the school year, this quote continues to come up in everything we study—whether we’re talking about rights as citizens when studying the U.S. Constitution or discussing current event topics.

When we discussed the projected famine in East Africa and brainstormed ways to help, one student said, “It’s just like the quote from the beginning of the year. We can’t simply give them food and water, but we have to help them build water filters or grow food that can go without water for long periods of time. If we allow them to do it, then they won’t lose their pride.”

My main goal is for my students to begin looking at the world around them with more compassion.

Holding conversations with their peers, respecting each other’s opinions, and being able to contribute to tough discussions with poise and understanding are traits I hope students gain throughout the school year. Not surprisingly, by the end of the school year, the majority of MHS students do.

MHS students learn to hold conversations with their peers, respecting each other’s opinions, and contribute to tough discussions with poise and compassion.

Sometimes, students are forced to view topics from different perspectives, which is challenging at such a young age. But more often than not, the students open my eyes to different perspectives and challenge me to look at situations differently.

There are so many times that I sit back and watch my students in class. I’m amazed that 13 and 14-year olds can be so wise and view the world in such a wonderful way. It’s very humbling, and it’s why I love teaching at MHS. Students’ diverse backgrounds and experiences contribute to the amazing things we can do in class. I’m not only a teacher at MHS, but I’m constantly learning as well.

Milton Hershey School does not discriminate in admissions or other programs and services on the basis of race, color, national or ethnic origin, ancestry, sex, religious creed or disability. Read important MHS policies on equal opportunity and diversity, equal employment opportunity, and more.