Compassionate Schools:  The Heart of Learning and Teaching

Compassionate Schools: The Heart of Learning and Teaching

The Compassionate Schools Initiative within Learning and Teaching Support provides training, guidance, referral, and technical assistance to schools wishing to adopt a Compassionate Schools Infrastructure. Compassionate Schools benefit all students who attend but focus on students chronically exposed to stress and trauma in their lives. These schools create compassionate classrooms and foster compassionate attitudes of their school staff. The goal is to keep students engaged and learning by creating and supporting a healthy climate and culture within the school where all students can learn. It is not a program; it is a process and as such is not “one size fits all.” Each school and community will develop their own unique compassionate “personality.”

+ Ten principles of a Compassionate School

  1. Focus on culture and climate in the school and community.
  2. Train and support all staff regarding trauma and learning.
  3. Encourage and sustain open and regular communication for all.
  4. Develop a strengths based approach in working with students and peers.
  5. Ensure discipline policies are both compassionate and effective (Restorative Practices).
  6. Weave compassionate strategies into school improvement planning.
  7. Provide tiered support for all students based on what they need.
  8. Create flexible accommodations for diverse learners.
  9. Provide access, voice, and ownership for staff, students and community.
  10. Use data to:
    • Identify vulnerable students, and
    • Determine outcomes and strategies for continuous quality improvement.

For more information on the book and about the Compassionate Schools Initiative in Washington, contact Ron Hertel, 360-725-6042,

The Heart of Learning and Teaching: Compassion, Resiliency, and Academic Success. Staff from The Learning and Teaching Support section of OSPI and the Woodring College of Education at Western Washington University in Bellingham have co-written a 246 page handbook entitled The Heart of Learning and Teaching: Compassion, Resilience, and Academic Success as one resource to be used by those schools wishing to adopt a compassionate approach to learning and teaching.

The purpose of the handbook is to inform, validate, and strengthen the collective work of educators to support students whose learning is adversely affected by chronic stress and trauma. This handbook provides current information about trauma and learning, self care, classroom strategies, and building parent and community partnerships that work.

It includes many case studies and vignettes from classrooms across Washington as well as an introduction to the Compassionate Schools Initiative which has already been successfully implemented in several schools across Washington State.

+ About the authors of the handbook

Ray Wolpow is a professor of Secondary Education at Western Washington University/Woodring College of Education and can be reached at

Mona Johnson is no longer at OSPI and is currently the Director of School Behavioral Health Program Child Adolescent & Family Behavioral Health Proponency. She can be reached at

Ron Hertel is the Program Supervisor for Compassionate Schools at OSPI and can be reached at

Susan Kincaid is an assistant professor at Western Washington University and can be reached at

More information about the authors can be found in the handbook.

The handbook, published September 2009, is a free download.

Order your quality, spiral-bound copies by contacting Teri Lee, at Olympic Educational Service District 114. She may be contacted by phone at (360) 405-5833 or by email at

Books will be $25 not including shipping and tax.

If you have any questions regarding orders of the book, please contact Kristin Schutte, Director of Student Services Department at

For more information on the handbook or Compassionate Schools contact Ron Hertel, Readiness to Learn Program Supervisor at 360-725-6042.


The Heart of Learning: Compassion, Resiliency, and Academic Success
The Heart of Learning: Compassion, Resiliency, and Academic Success


   Updated 12/5/2016

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