Kathy McCabe, criminal justice professor at COCC, asked students to “courageously share for the sake of cultivating compassion.” McCabe wanted to ask “what steps people are taking to get to class” in order to foster mindfulness in her classes. Thus, the Compassionate Soles program was founded at the start of Fall Term, 2015.
To participate in the program, students are asked to complete this sentence: “If you walked a day in my shoes you would know …”
Students complete the sentence by writing on a small piece of paper in the shape of shoe. The paper is then returned anonymously to the professor.
As of Oct. 26, approximately 200 responses have been returned.
“Some of the responses have been almost heart-breaking,” McCabe said, “yet they (students) still have the tenacity or resilience to show up in our classes.”
Students returned a wide variety of responses, ranging from parking struggles to topics such as isolation, depression, and homelessness. Amy Howell, assistant professor of education, was shocked that students would be so transparent about such sensitive and difficult topics, when most students had known their professor and fellow students for less than a week.
“Certainly this can be a way for our students to unburden, maybe feel heard,” McCabe said.
McCabe was not expecting such a response from her students: “Here I thought it was going to be a lesson for other students, to see what their colleagues are going through, and it was just as much a lesson for me.”
“People took the idea and ran with it,” Howell said.
At the start of winter term, these footsteps walk across bulletin boards and hallways all over campus. McCabe hopes this display will allow students to take a moment between classes to understand other students’ journeys.
Writing on the footprints was originally the entire project, but McCabe and Howell are no longer stopping there. At the end of the term, McCabe and Howell plan to look through the many responses in order to find universal themes and common struggles. Then, Tyler Hayes, coordinator of student engagement, will be compiling a poster with resources to accommodate these struggles that will be posted alongside the footprints.
“I love it. It’s a great program: a great opportunity for students to understand what their peers are going through,” Hayes said.
Tim Cachelin | The Broadside