The Yer of the Inner Compass

by Katrina MacGibbon

As we transition into 2022, I am feeling a renewed sense of hope, eagerness, and anticipation for the possibilities ahead. This might seem strangely optimistic as we already find our ourselves in a similar situation of flux and uncertainty as the previous year gone by. Admittedly, I am also exhausted and anxious with the ceaseless tides of uncertainty. But we are all learning that when the path isn’t clear and the world isn’t predictable we need to look to our inner compass for the answers. And as we do this for ourselves, we need to support our young people in doing the same.

But how to do this in a time when our resources are so limited?

American author and grounded researcher on shame, courage, vulnerability and empathy Brené Brown says that “kids can feel like their worlds are ending because their worlds are smaller than ours. Kids don’t always have the experience to enable them to take a bigger picture perspective on what’s going on and the silence and isolation in their worlds can feel overwhelming.” Their inner worlds are churning with emotions and they have very few outlets for them. Their future is unpredictable, and they have limited opportunity for experience. They have lost the momentum and sense of agency that the demands and commitments of everyday life have given them. A sense of agency and purpose feel remote at best.

So where to begin? We are called to come back to centre and focus on our inner worlds.

Encouraging competency in social emotional learning skills is foundational in these times if we are to help young people better understand and express what they are experiencing. This also affords the opportunity to connect and relate to others at the same time, something that has been sorely missing in our isolation. As educators and caregivers, we can support this by sharing our own feelings and modelling how we navigate the ups and downs (without being afraid to show the downs).

“There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” Leonard Cohen

The benefits of this level of self-awareness and the ability of this generation to tune into their feelings and trust what is coming up inside of them is paving a way for communicating their deepest needs – and this generation’s strong inner compass has the potential to become what they are defined by.

Acknowledging our inner compass opens up the journey to explore who we are and for the person we are meant to be to shine through. It relies less on outside factors to define who we ought to be. By recognizing and responding to our emotional cues, our gut instinct, our values, we validate not only what we are feeling but who we are as individuals. We can pay attention to the internal messages as much, if not more so than the external ones.

Captains & Poets is a powerful curriculum that provides a new and inspired way for students to access their inner compass, build a language to express what they are experiencing, get in touch with what matters to them and to consciously develop their identity.  By focusing more on going within during these times, there is the possibility of developing a more authentic relationship with themselves. It also fosters their innate “superpowers” including empathy, compassion, resilience, gratitude, curiosity and courage.

By fostering curiosity and courage, for example, we can better acknowledge and address the complex emotions we have all been experiencing to help navigate us toward experiences that support our positive wellbeing. Research Psychologist, Dr. Marc Brackett, Founder and Director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and Professor in the Child Studies Center at Yale University writes in his latest book, Permission to Feel, “when we don’t have the words to describe our feelings, we’re not just lacking descriptive flourish, we’re lacking authorship of our lives”. To own our stories and authentically create our identity requires that we have a language to describe what we have experienced and give meaning to our lives. Teaching kids to check in with their inner Captain and Poet does just that and supports a more positive and empowering narrative as they navigate these challenges.

It is our job to support them in this process and to let them know they have everything they need inside of them to move through challenges and to thrive.

By providing them with these foundational tools students can become more self-aware and compassionate people in this collective chapter we are going through.

In reckoning with the world, we are reckoning with ourselves. 2022 is going to be the Year of the Inner Compass and a calling back to our hearts to trust what we feel and know inside, while everything around us continues to shift.


Katrina holds a Masters of Education from OISE where she studied Human Development and Applied Psychology. She has worked for the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Bangladesh implementing inclusion and empowerment programs for youth. She has managed a number of democratic governance projects that focused on child advocacy in youth detention centres and has worked with WE Charity leading strategy and operations for international learning campaigns delivering tools for educators and students. She has also consulted and advised non-profit organizations on educational curriculum strategy, development and implementation.