The soft murmurs slowly died out as the trainer started talking. We had attended enough sessions not to need an introduction, so I settled back in my chair to see how this one would play out.
The trainer was from the Charter for Compassion, here to train us to integrate compassion into our class environment. Each session discussed a different facet of compassion, and today’s topic was integrity. I wondered whether today I would simply hang on with half my attention elsewhere or actually be involved. I had experienced each of these situations previously, sometimes because the topics were too dry for me, or sometimes because I was simply too exhausted. But there also had been instances where I had laughed intensely at the stories some of my colleagues contributed, and had watched some adorable video clips. I was hoping today was one of those days.
We started out routinely discussing what the word “Integrity” means to us. While this was a commonly discussed word, and most of us could easily define and somewhat describe it, I remembered sessions where the words were unfamiliar. “Empathy” for one had been tough, with most of us confusing it with sympathy. But whether we understood it or not initially, at the end of the sessions, we knew everything about it. My favorite ending so far had been an endearing Sesame Street clip, which had all of us giggling as the characters explained empathy to each other.
Today’s video did not turn out to be a bundle of laughs; however, it managed to get its point, “What integrity entails”, across emphatically.
While I had been quite skeptical about the need and affectivity of these sessions initially, I could now see how these could help change some things for better. They managed to reintroduce concepts and words that had gotten lost in the chaos of our lives.
We were asked to discuss in groups a situation when we had not acted with integrity. This turned into a stunningly insightful discussion. There were stories that were simply audacious, and tidbits about usual situations like taking money from your husband’s wallet without even telling him. We laughed ourselves silly at stories from our youth, and reflected gravely on instances where what had been done was wrong yet necessary. It was interesting to see what each person’s loophole was. When for them it was okay to do something not strictly correct.
One jarring instance in this session for me turned out to be when the trainer asked us how many of us actually told our students to simply understand the concept and that we could worry about the grades later. What came to my mind was not my students, rather my daughter who had told me last evening to stop bugging her about paying attention in class. She told me that she would get me the A I wanted in the end somehow. My reply had been, “Fine, Get that A then, however you want to.”
It was a reality check about how much everything had become about the destination, and the journey was simply added baggage. This was not the first time I had been forced to reevaluate my everyday actions. These sessions had brought to the forefront common words that we had somehow forgotten the importance of.
The discussion went on about how each of us, knew these words, perhaps practiced them, but simply did not identify with them. How we could learn to practice them, and this way be able to pass this on to our students. How could we use activities in classrooms to help children relate to each other and realize the importance of these words in their lives.
With these sessions, I had been forced to realize that these things had simply become buzzwords. They sounded nice in conversations and writings but had no place in our day to day lives anymore. We needed to relearn them. To reapply them. And yes, to teach them. We needed to consciously practice them, and groom our children to practice them. These words, had the power to change our lives, and all that was needed was merely a conscious application of them in our lives.