Teaching empathy is important.
We boarded the plane, and my children’s tickets were on the opposite aisle, my daughter was two rows back, and my son was two rows ahead. As I got my teenagers settled, I made them aware of where I was seated in case they needed me. I finally sat down and was subjected to a loud stern voice from the man next to me, “I guess you did not plan this trip in advance. You guys are all over the place.” My eyes started to tear up (as they continue to do when I think back to this moment), and I replied, “I just lost my father unexpectedly last night. No, I did not have time to plan this trip.”
You never know what people are going through.
We don’t know what our students are going through at home and sometimes even at school. They may be dealing with a family member’s death, their parents may fight every night, maybe a guardian didn’t come home last night, or their water could have been shut off. We need to be empathetic and understanding of what is happening in their personal life.
Reach out to people that may be able to help in your school district. First, reach out to the school counselor or resource teacher. They have great connections and additional resources within the community who may be able to help your student.
3 ways to teach empathy in the classroom…
3 Simple Ways To teach Empathy
- Show empathy. One of the best ways to teach empathy is to model it yourself.
- Set classroom expectations that have included your expectations for showing empathy.
- Have a discussion about how some friends may be struggling. Come up with ways to help.
- Have a discussion about others may be different. Discuss how your class can be stronger together and that you support one another’s differences.
- Sneak in ways that you can teach empathy without them even knowing.
- Play “What Would You Do?”
- Make it a teachable moment. Have the discussion about how to be more empathetic toward others.
I wish the man who sat next to me had been taught empathy. If he had, he would have realized that I was a hot mess. I’m sure he did not even consider apologizing or switching seats with one of my children so we could be together during this hard time. I hope this situation taught him to think before speaking next time. Teaching our students kindness is just the first step. SHOWING empathy is giving up your seat for someone else going through a hard time. SHOWING empathy is pulling aside the student that had her water shut off, giving her a toothbrush and toothpaste, and pointing her to the bathroom so that she can brush her teeth.