Remembering the Importance of Empathy
October 25, 2021
There’s a saying in educational circles which goes something like this,
“If a child can speak several languages, calculate vast sums in their head, and engineer brilliant inventions, but are unable to recognize and manage their own emotions, then the rest won’t matter in the long run.”
It’s a reminder that social-emotional development is not simply one aspect of education. It’s actually the foundation on which the rest of learning is built. Just consider things like communication, collaboration, or responsible decision-making. Without these skills, many of the greatest scientific breakthroughs would never have happened. Empathy in particular is one social skill that all educators should impart to their students.
Promoting empathy within a classroom ensures fewer behavioral problems, leads to overcoming barriers, and is ideal for combating a culture of bullying and harassment. The question is, how does one go about teaching empathy? Thankfully, it’s not as difficult as you might think. Here are just a few techniques for fostering empathy within your classroom.
Model Empathy for Students
Students need to know they’re seen and valued within the classroom. Granted, making sure every child feels appreciated can be a daunting task, but simple strategies can go a long way. Choose one student for each day of the month and make sure that child receives encouragement on their given day. Offer them some words of affirmation, ask how their day is going, or share a story which speaks to their background. A small gesture is all it takes to let your students know they matter.
Feelings can be tough to handle. We’ve all had bad days when negative thoughts have smothered us like a blanket. Helping younger students understand and identify these emotions is a vital step to learning empathy, not to mention securing their mental health. Too many children end up as bullies because they can’t process their feelings and frustrations properly. As a teacher, you have the opportunity to help students channel their emotions into positive growth. Whether it’s through sports, art, or meditation, be ready to help these children navigate the awkward corridors of their inner selves.
Take the Direct Approach
Don’t be afraid to inject empathy directly into your lesson. Is your class reading a book for English Language Arts? Discuss how students would feel in the main character’s situation. Have them consider character motivation while they read. Are students presenting a project to the class? Challenge them to view events from the audience’s perspective. Empathy is a flexible subject, and it can find a home in any curriculum.
If you’re looking for more ways to promote healthy social-emotional development in your classroom, consider taking advantage of Blue Apple’s free Timely Topic: Classroom Community. These free activities are a fun way to encourage communication and collaboration among students, all while fostering a growth mindset. Remember, when we give our students the guidance they need to process their feelings, they can transform those emotions into a powerful force for good.
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