May 27, 2011 Leave a comment
em-pa-thy- noun 1.) the intellectual identification with or the vicarious experience of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.
going off my first entry, i wanna write about empathy and the power it has on education. as i said before and as we learned in class, empathy is key in understanding others and seeing from others’ perspectives. it doesn’t mean that we HAVE to have had experienced a situation before, it just means that we have the ability to imagineourselves in someone else’s shoes.
personally, it was very difficult for me to imagine myself as an urban student. even just remembering myself as a 5th grader was really hard to do! throughout my time in urban seminar, my empathy skills have been put to the test because i knew i needed to see from a student’s perspective in order to understand the student on a deeper level. today, my class was doing a math worksheet comparing years of education completed and salary. one of my students, Zoey, was just sitting at her desk, chatting with her friends and clearly not doing the work. when i asked her why she wasn’t doing it, she simply said, ” i don’t want to do this, it’s boring.” of course i tried to encourage her to do it being that the lesson was about higher education=higher salary, but even with that she said, ” i don’t have to go to college, i can get a job without it.”
honestly, i was just very confused with her response because it seemed like she didn’t care. how could i possibly imagine myself in her shoes and see from her perspective when i thought she was being absurd! but then i realized that i was already judging, i wasn’t keeping an open mind, and i was most definitely not trying hard enough. as i tried again to be a 5th grade urban student, questions started popping up in my head…“what does she even want to be when she grows up?” “did i even care about college when i was in elementary?” “does she know a lot of people who have gone to college?” i concluded that maybe she hasn’t really thought about college or that no one has pushed her enough to make her want to go to college or think that she can succeed. if i were her, i would not be thinking about my salary or my math worksheet, and like she was already doing, i would rather be chatting up a storm than doing a worksheet. (i hated math when i was in elementary!) even just these little moments of empathy made a huge change in my thinking. it made me want to encourage Zoey that her future is important and that she is capable of succeeding.
empathy is something that i think is important for students to learn as well. it helps create a stronger bond between students and the classroom community as a whole. last week in class, i had a group that was constantly bickering and they all wanted to separate and join other groups. when i asked why they were all fighting, they said that some members were picking on them and they just weren’t getting along. then i asked each of them if they liked being picked on and of course, they all replied with a ‘no.’ after their responses, i told them that if they don’t like being picked on, then they shouldn’t pick on others. i guess it must have clicked in their heads for that hour because for the rest of the period, the group started getting along and actually ended up finishing their project. maybe the kids haven’t had much of a chance to learn or think about a lot of social skills such as respect or empathy which may lead to all the bickering there are in classrooms.
as observers in a classroom, another aspect of school we have to try to show empathy towards are the teachers. in the beginning of my urban seminar experience, i was to disappointed because the teachers were all so mean and punishing the students left and right with lunch detentions and taking away special privileges. now that i’ve been attending the school for a week and a half, i am able to have a better understanding on the way a teacher must think and act towards urban students. i almost feel silly now thinking back on how i thought all the teachers were being so harsh because now i can be that way too!
to keep it short and simple, bringing empathy into an urban classroom can make a huge difference. it can bring out respect and understanding from observers (me), teachers, and students. i guess the question of how exactly to teach empathy is an issue too, but i believe that just by taking time to think and reflect on your own behavior AND others’ behavior and having students do the same as well, we can all learn to identify with others in a more meaningful way.