What is World Cancer Day?

We all know all too well the impact that cancer has on our health, families, schools, and communities. Did you know that there is actually a day that is devoted to this horrible disease? World Cancer Day is a global observance that helps raise people’s awareness on how to prevent, detect, or treat it. The event is held on February 4th each year.

World Cancer Day is an initiative of the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC). According to UICC, this is the largest and oldest international cancer organization dedicated to “taking the lead in convening, capacity building and advocacy initiatives that unite the cancer community to reduce the global cancer burden, promote greater equity, and integrate cancer control into the world health and development agenda.” World Cancer Day is a day that receives much attention and is recognized across the world in several different ways.

Why is it Important to Promote Compassion and Understanding?

Throughout our teaching careers it is inevitable that at some point our students will encounter a situation, specifically hearing the word ‘cancer” or being part of a classroom or even living circumstances that are impacted by cancer. While no one can ever be quite prepared to handle the news about a loved one, colleague, or peer becoming ill, we can always do our best as educators to educate our learners to show compassion and understanding to those around us. Students must understand that you never quite know what someone else may be dealing with, and showing understanding and compassion towards others is a great place to begin building your classroom communities.

Throughout schools, social-emotional learning is now embedded in a big part of our daily curriculum. Teaching students and educating their hearts promotes compassion and understanding. While no one can make someone feel a certain way about any situation, promoting strong social-emotional skills teaches our students how to cope a little easier with everyday challenges. SEL leads to academic success, which helps develop well-rounded citizens. This also allows for conversations to take place within our classrooms that promote compassion and understanding beyond the walls of our schools.

Promoting a positive climate within your classroom that focuses on understanding and compassion builds the entire school community. This involves more than just hanging a poster about compassion or having a saying stamped on the bottom of letterhead. Instead, leading by example, promoting a positive school climate, and creating activities and lessons within the classroom, or even school-wide, helps build the positive climate that promotes compassion and understanding for others.

Creating a positive classroom climate is the heart of every classroom that leads to a family-like atmosphere throughout the school year. Building this sense of community teaches students to care for others and be more understanding of different circumstances that some may be experiencing.

Ways to Recognize World Cancer Day in Your Class

As we try to do our best to teach our students about World Cancer Day and focus on compassion and understanding, sometimes it is much easier to break terms down into “kid-friendly language” as opposed to teaching from a text book or site. With this being said, often students and families that are directly dealing with cancer or who have experienced this are often willing to come into schools and classrooms to discuss their journey in a very non-fearful way. Often hospitals have resources and child-friendly books to share with young students and schools to help explain the cancer journey, as well as how important it is to be compassionate and understanding.

Schools also have tackled awareness about World Cancer Day by honoring a teacher who has won the battle or even a student. Decorating schools in cancer ribbons as well as holding mini celebrations and lessons that focus on World Cancer Day adds to the compassion and understanding at age appropriate levels.

Guidance counselors have also paired up with teachers to create activities that help teach compassion and understanding to our students. Creating a school-wide “garden of hope” that is full of hand painted rocks that students create and then place in the garden as a “wish” for all of those who are diagnosed with cancer.

Teachers can take the opportunity to teach about cancer awareness across the curriculum. This can easily be taught in health, science, and even reading class. Reading stories about cancer awareness and focusing on compassion can lead up to a grand celebration on February 4th.

Specifically, during the holidays classrooms are always excited to focus more on compassion and empathy, as this is a time to give. The holiday season is not always a joyous time for everyone, and teaching others empathy and kindness is a streamline to show compassion towards others. Taking donations, having a coin drive, making felt blankets that do not require sewing, and creating cards with cheer and sending them to children’s hospitals or cancer centers are always great activities that students can take part in to promote compassion as well as educate students about cancer and how World Cancer Day was created.

More than ever teachers have to be creative about how we can engage our students during remote instruction. Promoting virtual activities that teach compassion and understanding can be carried over to any virtual platform. Through creative lessons, continuing to lead by example, and setting the tone that caring for others is always an expectation within your classroom will help students through difficult times.

While no one can quite predict what challenging times our students may face or who may be directly impacted by cancer, teaching them to think with their hearts as well as be understanding of others will help guide them through not only lessons in the classroom, but also life experiences that may be challenging.