Education Evolutions // Impact Insights

Teaching with Compassion: Supporting Students in Crisis

Lana’s English Language Training instructors in Vietnam emphasize teaching with compassion and create supportive learning environments for their students.

As an educator, my classroom is much more than a space for academic instruction. It’s a place where individuals bring not only their backpacks but also the weight of their worlds. Throughout the 18 months of Lana’s English Language Training (ELT) instruction in Vietnam, I have had 45 military officers in my class. This year, I have encountered a particularly poignant situation with a student that I’ll refer to as “Captain Son.” Captain Son has been dealing with a significant family crisis this semester. Observing the effect it has had on his education has deepened my commitment to teaching with compassion and being a source of support.

From the first hint that he was struggling, I realized the necessity of creating an environment that emphasized emotional safety as much as educational progress. I started each class by subtly letting all students know that their well-being was a priority. This involved open conversations about managing stress and recognizing that everyone has bad days and that it’s perfectly okay to have them. 

Maintaining confidentiality and ensuring private communication became my immediate response upon learning of Captain Son’s situation. I approached him to offer a listening ear, making it clear that any conversation between us would stay confidential. Through these interactions, I could offer specific resources like our school counselor, who could provide more specialized support. 

I realized the critical need for flexibility in academics during these times. Therefore, I adjusted deadlines for him when necessary and provided alternative methods to complete assignments. This was not about making it easier but about making it possible for him to maintain his academic responsibilities. 

My observations of Captain Son’s changing behavior prompted me to reach out proactively. It was crucial to remind him that my classroom was a judgment-free zone, and that help was always available. This proactive approach often opened the door for him to share more about his challenges when he chose to. 

I also emphasize building a community within our classroom. I integrated collaborative projects in class to foster a collective support network among peers.

Through this experience, I’ve grown immensely not just professionally but personally. Understanding the balance of academic roles with empathy has reshaped how I instruct and interact with all my students. By advocating empathy, discretion, flexibility, observation, and community-building, we can provide a supportive scaffold that helps students like Captain Son not just to succeed academically, but to thrive emotionally under the pressures of their challenges. 

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