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Cooking up a Compassion Casserole for the Classroom


Brené Brown also says that “Compassion is the daily practice of recognising and accepting our shared humanity so that we treat ourselves and others with loving-kindness, as we take action in the face of suffering.” I truly belief that we can create compassionate classrooms where our learners can thrive, so I have put together this little recipe that I hope will help you cook something amazing up.


A truly great casserole comes from great ingredients, lovingly put together and given time to simmer to allow the flavours to infuse throughout the dish. The Compassion Casserole is no different.


We start with the base- getting the base right is so important. Add a splash of oil to a large heavy-based pot, turn to a moderate temperature, and add a large amount of carefully prepared empathy. Empathy is an essential ingredient that as the heat comes through it infuses the dish with it's beautiful aroma. Without empathy the dish will be bland and always feel like it is missing something. Empathy helps us recognise and respond to the pain and difficulty we see others are living with.


Once you can see the empathy is heated through and softening then you can add the rest of the ingredients for the base.


Sprinkle kindness into the pot. The good thing about kindness is you can rarely put too much of that in, so go for gold, throw in as much as you want! Remember, a simple act of kindness can make a world of difference. So, let's liberally offer kindness to others, because you never know when it might be just what someone needs.


A good dollop of generosity is next. Brene Brown's generosity of assuming positive intent is something to consider. Everyone is doing their best with what they have right now, and this requires us to engage in perspective taking.


For added flavour you really can't go past forgiveness. To break the cycle of anger, we add a healthy dose of forgiveness. Holding onto anger is like holding a hot coal, expecting someone else to get burned. Release that coal, and watch how forgiveness transforms the flavour of your classroom environment.


Now we add the last ingredient for the base before we add the 'meat' and that is responsibility. Take responsibility for our own actions and how we show up. We are the chefs of our learning environment, responsible for our emotions and safety. Let's craft a classroom that reflects our commitment to responsibility.


The 'meat' of the dish, cut into cubes so the flavours of the base can infuse through it, is trust! Trust is often underrated but a compassionate learning culture simply doesn't happen without it. Living by our values, keeping our words and actions congruent, builds trust.


Now we can let that simmer, allowing all those flavours to blend together. I know that the aroma will be filling the kitchen, or classroom, now. Let yourself breathe it in and enjoy it.


Before serving there are a few final touches that will elevate this compassion casserole from delicious to absolutely divine.


Season with a healthy dose of self-compassion and peacefulness to sweeten this dish. Kristen Neff describes self-compassion as self-kindness, a sense of common humanity, and mindfulness. It is always a good idea to prepare this in advance and add more whenever it is required. Peacefulness is an active choice and calm is contagious. As the head chef in the classroom, you can create calm but choosing to show up with peacefulness in your heart. For some peacefulness can be an acquired taste (a little like olives were for me) but once they get a taste for it I know your students will keep coming back for more (again, like olives were for me!).


And the last spicy flourish is a sprinkle of wisdom. Knowing when to help and when to step back, recognising it's not our job to fix everyone, and staying out of judgment – that's the wisdom we bring to the table.


And with that our Compassion Casserole is complete. As with any casserole it is even better the next day so keep working on it, and know that this is worth the effort. It will be a dish that you and your students won't be able to get enough of I am sure!



Megan Gallagher, is a mum, teacher, coach, speaker, PLD facilitator and consultant. She weaves her teaching experience, intense interest and curiosity about the brain, and coaching skills together in all that she does.

She specialises in coaching for children, families and educators, and shares her expertise in wellbeing, curriculum design, and impactful teaching and learning as a speaker and facilitator.

One of her greatest pleasures in life is seeing others shining and this is the basis of the work she does with Ignite Your Spark.

For more information please check out meggallagher.nz. You can contact her at meg@meggallagher.nz



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Another great 'food for thought' piece, Meg ❤️ I loved watching you present this at the Teachers Matter Conference in January.

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It was so much fun presenting it! Thanks for the challenge to stretch ourselves x

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