Last week at the Scholarship of Teaching Learning and Assessment Conference an amazing group of West Chester University Students gathered to share their perspective on the topic of compassion and engagement in higher education. They had wonderful comments, examples and stories, but for the sake of space and clarity I’ll summarize.

They want to be SEEN. They want to be included, feel a part of something and be valued.
Don’t we all?

One student shared the uncomfortable feelings she had when she began at West Chester University as a transfer student from another university. Not knowing her way around, she felt alone, and wasn’t sure of the norms, the jargon, and how to navigate through the day. She wished there had been another student to “mentor” her through those first few days.

I’ve felt like her countless times. When I when I started a new school as a child, when I transferred schools as a teacher, when I became an administrator, when I joined a new gym, when I began teaching in higher education, and most recently when I joined other Stenhouse Authors at an author’s reception at the Literacy for All Conference.

Sometimes being new is exciting, other times uncomfortable. What makes the difference? It’s so simple. We all just need one person, one compassionate soul who takes the initiative to include you, to say hello and make a connection. It’s a game changer.

I teach my university student teachers, that on their first few days of their student teaching placement in a school, when they feel nervous, to look for a child that is by themselves and make a connection. Before long, your own nervousness dissipates because you’re focused on someone other than yourself.

So, look around. Get out of your own head, look into the eyes of others, be present, and you’ll start noticing all the “new people” in your midst that could really benefit from a simple hello. You’ll feel good, and they’ll feel welcome. It takes seconds.

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