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Compassionate Critical Thinking

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

Ira Rabois

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, and it turns the act of teaching into a transformational practice. Many books teach mindfulness, but few provide a model for teaching critical thinking and integrating it across the curriculum. The purpose of this book is to show 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?
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Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Pages: 146Size: 6 1/4 x 9 3/8
978-1-4758-2881-8 • Hardback • October 2016 • $44.00 • (£29.95)
978-1-4758-2882-5 • Paperback • October 2016 • $22.00 • (£14.95)
978-1-4758-2883-2 • eBook • October 2016 • $21.99 • (£14.95)
Ira Rabois recently retired from the Lehman Alternative Community School, a public secondary school in Ithaca, NY, where he taught English, Philosophy, History, Drama, Karate, and Psychology for 27 years. He earned a B.A. from the University of Michigan, a M.A.T. from SUNY-Binghamton, served in the Peace Corps, studied Zen and Japanese martial arts for 40 years with Hidy Ochiai, and took classes in meditation and Buddhist psychology at Namgyal Institute for Tibetan Studies, The Omega Institute with David Loy and Robert Thurman, healing meditation with the Consciousness Research and Training Project, and Proprioceptive Writing with Linda Trichter Metcalf and Tobin Simon.

Mindfulness, Creativity and Natural Thinking
Heart, Empathy and Mindfulness
Socratic Questioning and Compassionate Thinking
Integrating Mindfulness into Your Classroom
Mindfulness as Practice for Teachers

How the Book is Organized
Notes on the Inclusion of Student Voices in the Book

Chapter 1: Begin with Mindfulness
What is Mindfulness? How Do You Practice It?
Why Practice? Different Uses and Forms of Practice
Mindful Speech
The Hero’s Journey
Using Imagination and Visualization to Teach

Chapter 2: How Does the Brain Shape Experience?
The Geography of the Brain
The Emotional Areas of the Brain and How To Pay Attention Emotional Pathways and What We Pay Attention To

Chapter 3: Emotion and the Quality of Your Mental State
A Philosophical and Buddhist Inquiry into Suffering
What Is Anger?
Should I or Shouldn’t I? Anger and Kindness.
Joy and Fear.
Understanding and Letting Go of Anxiety
Greed and Human History

Chapter 4: Emotions of Opening and Approach
What is Empathy and Compassion?
What is Love?
What Attracts One Person To Another?

Chapter 5: Compassionate Critical Thinking is a Process Of Mindful Questioning
Questioning and Beginning the Process of Critical Thinking
How Does Inner Silence Assist Thinking?
The Role of Self-Reflection in Compassionate Critical Thinking

Appendix: Further Resources
About the Author
Impressively written, organized and presented, Compassionate Critical Thinking is especially recommended for college and university library Teacher Education collections in general, and student teacher supplemental studies reading lists in particular.
Midwest Book Review

Rabois' innovative approach places students at the center of learning, encouraging deep thinking about themselves and the world around them. A timely antidote to conventional education — and stultified thinking in general.
Sasha Lilley, host of Pacifica Radio's Against the Grain, Author of Capital and its Discontents

Dialogue has often been an important part of the [Buddhist/spiritual] path, but it does not always receive the attention it deserves. Ira Rabois’ book, Compassionate Critical Thinking, shows the way to do it, and what it can mean for those who engage in such conversations sincerely and openly. This is what education should be about.
David Loy, Philosophy Professor, Zen Teacher, and Environmental Activist, Author of A New Buddhist Path: Enlightenment, Evolution, and Ethics in the Modern World

Ira Rabois has written a straightforward and nuanced guide for anyone who wants to blend emotional honesty with the craft of teaching, based on 27 years of reflecting on his
own experiments and discoveries as a teacher. Full of illuminating stories, suggestions, and insights, Compassionate Critical Thinking will demonstrate to educators, parents, and administrators that attending to students' emotional responses to classroom materials can lead them to think more critically. This book shows how to do justice to the emotional complexity of teaching and learning.
Susanna Siegel, Edgar Pierce Professor of Philosophy, Harvard University, and author of The Rationality of Perception

Ira Rabois — a 21st century renaissance man — has taught karate, philosophy, psychology, English, Social Studies, and drama to secondary school students for over three decades. Drawing on this wealth of experience — and using illustrative vignettes of his students’ voices — he takes us on a journey, showing how he has combined mindfulness meditation, creativity, empathy, and Socratic questioning to engage young people in a rich, collaborative learning process he calls Compassionate Critical Thinking.
Dave Lehman, Principal, Lehman Alternative Community School, Ithaca NY, Educational Consultant, Editor of Connections, for the National School Reform Faculty

I am excited to recommend Ira Rabois’ new book, Compassionate Critical Thinking. As an adolescent psychotherapist, my work focuses in part on assisting patients to gain insight into their internal world, to come to understand their autonomous selves and to be able to articulate this understanding to others rather than simply to act them out. The practices outlined in this book wonderfully integrate the education and psychotherapy processes. They are extremely important, effective, and fitting for enabling a young person to both gain better self-awareness and grounding, and to better focus on the learning process.
Robert Heavner, Clinical Psychologist, Adolescent and Adult Psychotherapy

I fell in love with Ira Rabois’ Compassionate Critical Thinking on the first page. As a master teacher of heart and mind, Rabois encourages his students to understand and express their inherent wisdom. Trusting that each child has an important viewpoint and perspective, he guides classroom discussions that lead to self-understanding, clear critical thinking, and compassionate awareness. Any teacher who reads this book and uses its methods will find new inspiration for their students and for themselves.
Elaine Mansfield, blogger and author of Leaning into Love: A Spiritual Journey through Grief

Reading this book strongly affirms the role of relationship, both to self and others, in the learning process. Rabois provides a clear path for using mindfulness in the classroom to foster empathy and genuine connection with the material being explored together in class, empowering both students and teacher. The book guides the reader through a process of helping students learn more about themselves and their own learning processes as they make meaningful personal connections to class material.
Sarah Jane Bokaer, English, Humanities, and Drama Teacher at Lehman Alternative Community School, Ithaca NY, and Mindfulness Practitioner