Planting the Seeds of Empathy

28 Oct

Yet, taught by time, my heart has learned to glow for other’s good, and melt at other’s woe – Homer

Putting ourselves inside the shoes of another – as the old saying goes – has never been more relevant – This, according to an article written by Forbes contributor Georges Anders, who makes the observation that the number one job skill that will be in highest demand for much of the workforce in 2020 is empathy.

What is Empathy?empathy

Empathy is the ability to identify with and understand the feelings, experiences and motives of others. Empathy enriches relationships and builds trust among individuals. It is a vital tool in building a community of caring, collaborative, creative citizens who are active, contributing members to the global world we live in.

Can WE Teach Empathy?

For as long as teaching existed, teachers have always shown empathy towards their students. They know that students learn best when they feel supported, respected and safe. And although teachers do agree that teaching empathy is important to the overall success of a student, more often than not, it is ignored because funding is based on reaching state standards and test scores, and a skill such as empathy is not as measurable as a skill in math, science or literacy.

Today population mobility is such that more and more people move from one country to another for their work.  As a consequence of population mobility, linguistic, cultural, ‘racial’, and religious diversity is permeating the classroom walls and with its diversity comes diverse problems for schools. Teaching empathy is no longer an option. To better prepare today’s students for tomorrow’s world, empathy must be taught.

Teaching children to be empathetic can simply begin by teaching them to be good listeners.  Pointing out to them the things they have in common with other people or modeling sympathetic behavior through role play are also other ways that empathetic behavior can be taught and modeled.

For more ideas on teaching empathy, check out Teaching Tolerance, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, where you can find classroom resources, by grade level, to teach students about empathy.

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