As described in the October 2020 BC Mental Health in Schools (MHiS) strategy, “compassionate systems leadership in education is an approach that inspires transformation and instructional best practices that lead to student success. It is anchored in self-awareness, social awareness, responsible decision-making, self-management, and relationship skills.” As counsellors, we are typically well-versed in supporting internal and relational work but may have a more challenging time determining how to incorporate the third aspect, systems, into our work in schools and beyond. Compassionate Systems Leadership (CSL) has three core elements: systems awareness, systems change, and enhanced well-being, which are addressed through internal work (including grounding practice, self-reflection, and self-awareness), relationship work (where space is created and held for authentic connections between people), and system work (focused on connecting self, others, and the broader systems within which we all exist).
Shirley is the school counsellor for both schools in Valemount, BC: a K-7 elementary and 8-12 secondary. She is a teacher and a Registered Clinical Counsellor through the BC Association of Clinical Counsellors. She holds a PhD in Health Sciences for which her doctoral research was on resilience in teachers who were simultaneously raising their own children while teaching; her work for this degree earned her the 2018 Women's Health Research Foundation Silver Award at the Canadian Student Health Research Forum in Winnipeg, MB and the 2019 Governor General’s Gold Medal for UNBC. Shirley has worked as a teacher and/or counsellor with adults and children of all ages from infant/toddler to post-secondary and is an alumnus of the second Compassionate Systems Leadership Master Practitioner cohort through the Center for Systems Awareness at MIT. She is married with two children and too many pets.
Suchitra Sarda has a significant number of years of leadership experience in K-12, higher education, education consultancy, and teacher coaching. She has a Master’s in International Education Development from Teachers College, Columbia University and a post graduate diploma in Business Studies from the London School of Economics and Political Science. She is also a certified master practitioner for Compassionate Systems Leadership (CSL). Suchitra recently founded Compassionate Learning Communities, which supports the development and growth of Compassionate Systems in schools and school systems.
At Teachers College, Suchitra engaged in exploring and understanding compassion, social emotional learning (SEL), mindfulness, and systems thinking in schools, development work, refugee contexts, and international institutions. Her Master’s project for her CSL certification elucidated this exploration wherein she studied participants’ understandings of the Compassionate Systems Framework after taking the Introductory workshop in one of seven different global hubs. She compared the experiences of new and experienced users of the framework and shared insights for future research.