Yes, We Can Teach Empathy in Schools
Can we nurture and teach empathy in the classrooms? 100% yes.
As much as people might argue over the issue of whether or not compassion can be taught, many schools are now taking the time during Staff Development and training to learn how to build social skills through mindful dialogue, interactive skill based learning, modeling behaviors (especially if not taught at home), perspective talking exercises, and incorporating inclusion and acceptance into existing school curriculums.
The quote from To Kill a Mocking Bird, "to climb into someone's skin and walk around in it" is just one example of how an adult imparts meaningful thought to a young child in order to understand empathy. As we continue watching the news and reading articles on the tragedies that are on the rise with children and young adults committing suicide, bullying or harming other human beings, we have to ask ourselves, "how can we take advantage of employing empathy in our students and in schools, where teaching compassion becomes just as important as teaching basic math skills and ancient Greek mythology?." Far from heroes, Alexander wasn't in fact great and the Spartans were nothing but thugs. Teaching students real life examples of how history can repeat itself can weigh in on the importance of how human beings treat one another. Before we find fault in someone, can we ask ourselves how our own flaws resemble the one we're about to point out in someone else?
Being far from perfect individuals, this concept can actually be taught using examples of history, and applying those examples to real life scenarios, teaching kids how to communicate more effectively and consider feeling what someone else might be going through in terms of pain or hurt. Learning how to be kinder and more compassionate shows students that unless you've walked in someone else's shoes, you can't possibly know what they're going through.
We know that empathy is not an intangible trait that every person is born with. To understand another person's struggles, we need to take the time and teach - if parents don't, then we as educators can certainly build awareness through experiences, thought processes, real life, and history. We're making history now. We better teach morals and empathy quickly before this generation becomes even more historically damaged than it already is. Our children are suffering at rapid speed. There's no greater lesson in life than understanding the importance of building community and compassion towards others.
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