Gearing up for the school year, I've been working on a number of presentations and a common theme seems to be popping up: Empathy. I'll be revisiting this topic with some concrete examples of how empathy effects our work in the classroom, but wanted to share a few general thoughts as you all get ready to step up to the podium next week.
Empathy is most often defined as the ability to 'walk a mile in another person's shoes'. And many of us (esp. educators!) think we have this pretty locked up. It's a wonderful characteristic to have and we often pride ourselves on this ability. But be careful, empathy is a thin line; just believing you are empathetic puts you at risk of not being so. It is something we have to consciously practice. It's a mindset by which we live our lives aware that what we assume or presume may very well not be accurate, and allowing space for the perspective of others.
This is incredibly important in the classroom from building relationships, to supporting personalized learning, and engaging in meaningful formative assessment. So...let's get started! First and foremost, let's get back to being a kid. Let's get back to a time when even an ant crossing the sidewalk with a crumb was something to that would cause you to stop, point, squeal and fill you with such excitement and wonder that you just had to share it with everyone around you. Remember what it was like to feel emotions with such totality? To have a complete melt-down; to jump, squeal and laugh uncontrollably; to tug at your neighbor's sleeve until they joined in your wonder? It's probably been a while for most of you. So, before you continue with this post. Watch this wonderful video from Jason DaSilva at Shots of Awe (2 minutes) . I'll wait...
Wasn't that refreshing? So let's reflect on what this means in the classroom. Take the next 5 minutes and consider this: If you approach everything in your practice, (i.e. lesson planning, classroom management, communication with parents) remembering that this is how kids experience the world:
What might you do to tap into your childlike sense of wonder, to walk a mile in your students' shoes? And by extension, what might you do differently to ignite that sense of curiosity and wonder in them when faced with learning standards & objectives? What might you do differently to engage those excitable (or not-so-excitable) students?
Post your ideas and reactions below.
Carol Glanville, M.Ed.
Organizational Design Consultant