Friday, March 10, 2017

Act with Empathy

This is the second of four blog posts that I am sharing to elaborate on our work for re-creating our school’s mission/vision (First blog, linked - Inspire Learning).

As a staff, we also identified Kindness as a core value within our school. As a smaller team, we took that word and created the phrase Act with Empathy.

What follows is the thought process (as well as my own elaboration) for how and why we went from Kindness to Act with Empathy.

We thought that Empathy encompassed kindness. If one was Empathetic, they would also be Kind. We didn’t necessarily think that the opposite held true. You could potentially be Kind towards others (at least on the surface), but that wouldn’t guarantee that you were Empathetic. It just seemed to us that you could fake Kindness; you couldn’t fake Empathy.

Empathy is about recognizing, respecting, and valuing other people’s needs and perspectives. It begins with listening, it extends to understanding, and then culminates with making connections. Those are critical skills for today’s learner. Those are critical skills in today’s society.

Now let’s make sure not to confuse Empathy with sympathy. These are not the same things. Sympathy is feeling sorry for someone. Empathy is much more than that. According to Mike Krzyzewski, in his book Beyond Basketball: Coach K's Keywords for Success, "Empathy means having the ability to, most literally, feel what te other person is feeling. Then they will never feel alone." What if we could make that guarantee to ALL of our parents? Your child will never feel alone when he/she is in our school. Yes, please!

Marilyn Price-Mitchell, from her Edutopia article Empathy in Action: How Teachers Prepare Future Citizens’ says, "When young people develop Empathy, they not only thrive in school and life, but they also impact their communities in positive, often extraordinary ways.” Who is going to argue that opportunity for their children/students? No one. That is why it is essential that we, as educators and school staff, are continuously modeling Empathy through all of our actions.

“Empathy is the most important back-to-school supply for teachers.”   
- Homar Tavangar (2014) via Thomas R. Hoerr's book, The Formative Five (2017)

From the book Start Right Now by Jimmy Casas, Todd Whitaker, and Jeff Zoul 

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