Teaching Connection, Compassion And Character with Rachael Kessler

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In the 1990s when students turned firearms on their classmates, we were jolted into the realization that our young generation was in emerging crisis. Substance abuse, eating disorders, and depression have reached epidemic proportions. As more emphasis is placed on test scores, and non-academic classes fall victim to budget cuts, students are left with little opportunity to explore the deeper issues that bring the sense of purpose that is too often lacking. Rachael Kessler has a different vision of what education can and should be about. She is the founder and director of The PassageWays Institute, dedicated to helping teachers bring "soul" into the classroom to help adolescents find meaning in their education and in their lives. She explains, "When soul enters the classroom young people begin to share the things they feel joyful and successful about, their vulnerability, the things they're afraid of, the things they were afraid would make them look weak. As they listen deeply to other people, as they look deeply into their own stories, they begin to feel empathy, even compassion and sometimes forgiveness." (hosted by Justine Willis Toms) Part of the Reimagine Growing Up Series.


Rachael Kessler (1946-2010) was an educator, author, speaker, and consultant on the need for emotional intelligence, social competence, and spiritual meaning in our classrooms, our workplaces, and our everyday lives.

She is the author of: 

  • The Soul of Education: Helping Students Find Connection, Compassion and Character at School (ASCD 2000)
  • Promoting Social and Emotional Learning: Guidelines for Educators (coauthor) (ASCD 1997)

Topics Explored in This Dialogue

  • How you can help a young person honor the deep questions that lead to discovery of the soul
  • What role emotions play in your ability to learn
  • How you can make it easier for students to stay engaged in the learning process
  • What tools teachers can use to help students feel safe enough to share their stories
  • How teachers can avoid imposing their own belief systems on their students
  • The seven gateways to self-discovery
Host: Justine Willis Toms      Interview Date: 4/28/2005      Program Number: 3088