Then not long after that someone made an error in my midst, and I was able to pay the compassion forward. It was such a good feeling to pass on the graceful care that had been given to me.
When error occurs, it's first best to assess with questions like this:
- What happened?
- Why did it happen?
- What are the next immediate steps?
- What are the future steps to prevent such an error later on?
Of course when it comes to errors that cause little harm, this is easy, but if an error is big enough to create substantial harm, we have to think more about that.
That's one reason why, as teachers, we have to work with children in ways that prevent irreversible and harmful error. How do we do that?
It's good to assess our programming in ways that help us to discern if we are paving the way for students' good living, the kind of living that protects students from those irreversible errors. That kind of programming should include the following in developmentally appropriate ways:
- fire safety
- stranger safety
- drug and alcohol prevention
- healthy eating and nutrition
- body smarts--how to care for your body so you are safe and healthy
- social skills
- Internet safety
- accident prevention
- safety drills--violence prevention
The "Do Not Go There" List
It's good for all of us to have that "Do Not Go There" list of actions, the kinds of actions that can create true harm for others. That "list" will vary from age to age and person to person, but in general some of the events on that list for young children would include the following:
- Never take a pill or drug on your own without a trusting adult's consent
- Never walk on the ice or go swimming without adult supervision
- Never touch a gun, and leave a home or place where a gun is present right away, then tell a trusting adult.
- Never push, shove, or hit another person
- Don't create emotional harm with hurtful words, sayings, hearsay, or conjecture
- Don't steal
- Don't vandalize
- Don't go off with a stranger under any circumstances
- Don't write, share, or draw anything harmful on the Internet or on paper
It's good to couple this "Do Not Go There" with relevant, age-appropriate stories to bring meaning and remembering to the list. Some may say that this is the kind of list that parents should share with children, but I think it's important for teachers to talk about this list too at times when appropriate.
Observation, Reporting, and Collaboration
As educators we are mandated reporters which means that if a child displays or states comments which reveal potential harm, we have to report it to the authorities who will then investigate and determine next steps.
It's best when schools have collaborative protocols in place for situations like this. While no one ever wants to report difficult events, in the end it's what we are obligated to do. If the results are that the issue is not of concern, all the better, and if the issue points to a need for intervention, that's good too.
In all, wrongdoing, error, mishap, and sometimes harm will happen. No one looks forward to these unfortunate events, and we do well to avoid if possible, and then if the unfortunate event does arise it's in everyone's best interest to bring as much compassion to the situation as you can.