How Mindfulness, Creativity, Empathy, and Socratic Questioning Can Transform Teaching

Compassionate Critical Thinking by Ira Rabois

Ira Rabois recently retired as a teacher in Ithaca, NY, where he taught humanities — and Karate — for 27 years. In his new book, Compassionate Critical Thinking, Rabois shares insights learned from his training in meditation and Buddhist psychology, and 40 years’ Zen and martial arts practice.

Teachers can’t add more minutes to a school day, But with mindfulness they can add depth to the moments they do have with students in their classroom. Compassionate Critical Thinking demonstrates how to use mindfulness with instructional effectiveness to increase student participation and decrease classroom stress. Mindfulness turns the act of teaching into a transformational practice.

When students feel a lack of meaning and purpose in their school lives, they resist learning.

Many books teach mindfulness, but few provide a model for teaching critical thinking and integrating it across the curriculum. This book shows teachers how to create a classroom culture of compassionate critical thinking.

When students feel a lack of meaning and purpose in their school lives, they resist learning. Using a Socratic style of inquiry, Rabois changes the classroom dynamic to encourage self-reflection, insight, and empathy.

Vignettes capture dialogue between teacher and students to illustrate how mindfulness practices elicit essential questions which stimulate inquiry and direct discovery. What bigger mystery is there, what more interesting and relevant story, than the story of one’s own mind and heart and how they relate us to the world.

If high school teachers are interested in helping students develop compassionate critical thinking, they would probably be most successful reading this book first, applying its questions and ideas to their own lives, allowing a first-person understanding of this information to be the basis of their teaching style. If a school has staff development days, even a small amount of time shared reading and discussing this book would be of great benefit to teachers and students alike. Sharon K. Yntema