The bottom line: compassion

Introduction: This post was written on August 17, 2013. It was originally intended to be posted that week. However, events transpired that made it difficult to publicize a post with a theme centered on compassion toward students. Since two and a half years have passed, the topic of this post has caused me much reflection. I will post the original post as intended, but I will include editorial comments in italics.

As the next post on this new adventure called blogging, I would like to spend it as many educators do – looking to the year ahead, full of possibilities and excitement. Personally, I have a couple of new classes on my plate this year, which have me delving into new curriculum and scanning the worldwide web for new resources to help enhance my students’ learning experiences. 

However, it wasn’t until last night that I came to realize the one key ingredient for every successful classroom. As teachers, the content comes easy for us. We have a passion for our subject area and we want to share that passion with our students. Last night, I attended the wedding of a former student and it was the second wedding this summer that involved former students (I know I’m getting old-but that is for another post). This particular wedding was different – not in the expected way such an event separates itself from the rest. No, this wedding was held in the same church where I had attended a funeral eight months prior for a current student who passed away during the school year.

These two events, although common in their location, obviously reside at opposite ends of the emotional spectrum. Last night, I found myself reflecting on another, more abstract, factor they had in common. As I sat and witnessed these former students express their devotion for each other, I couldn’t help but notice the immense love that transpired throughout the room. It was obvious that each person there cared deeply for this couple and each person wanted the best for them. This was not unlike the other occasion, where the same room, which was standing room only, was filled with individuals who cared deeply for the deceased.

That common factor of deep, unwavering affection slightly surprised me. I wasn’t expecting to draw such a similarity between two drastically different occasions. It helped me to reflect on the connection I had with each of these students. The importance of developing a strong relationship with students started to become clear. 

Since this post, a colleague of mine has described this investment in student learning as emotional currency. Teachers often are deficit spending when it comes to their emotional investment in students. Creating a balance becomes essential, but it is difficult to maintain.

I hesitate to use the term “caring” for this relationship because it really depends on the specific teaching management style of each teacher. However, in every classroom it should be evident that the teacher has a passion for the content, but a stronger passion for the students. At a conference a few weeks ago, student speaker Kayla Hill mentioned “Teachers who do a good job, not only have a passion for what they’re teaching, but for whom they’re teaching.”

As the school year begins, I will not only search for ways to make the content come alive for my students, but I’ll make an effort to make sure each student in my classroom understands the passion I have for them.

This post, although written years ago, has been difficult for me to publicize. The time that has passed since I have written this has forced me to reevaluate my commitment to my students. My philosophy centers on student growth and preparing students for their next step. However, I have realized that it’s impossible for me to perform my job without giving my full commitment to my students. 

Jeremy Murphy is a journalism and English teacher at West Fargo High School in West Fargo, North Dakota. This blog represents his observations from his professional growth in his 11 year career. In no way should this be mistaken for advice or any form of professional expertise. If you are looking for an expert in teaching, English and/or life, you are on the wrong site. You can follow Jeremy on Twitter at @mr_jmurphy or email him at

One response to “The bottom line: compassion”

  1. […] Connection….that’s really the perfect word now that I think about it. From those classroom days to the days beyond, the connection was there. As teachers, we form these connections whether intentional or not. These connections do not disappear after the class time ends. That’s a part of the beauty of the profession, but also what makes it emotionally challenging as well. There is a finite amount of emotional currency in a lifetime…or is there? This is not the first time the emotional weight of teaching has pushed me to reflect on my role in people’s lives and the importance of compassion. […]

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