empathy in the classroom

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!

random funny photo i took...students kept pronouncing the word judicial as 'JUH-dih-cal' instead of 'joo-DISH-al' during their presentations no matter how many times we corrected them! and they kept spelling it wrong...haha

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.


hali chung- more than academics

when i was in elementary school, my two favorite classes were art and music. i loved art because i liked the creativity of it and the way it let me express myself in ways other than speech. i loved music because i loved learning to play instruments and singing. what i saw from the fifth graders of Grover Washington Middle School was a love for art by the students but a lack of art programs by the school. before class began, i saw the boys all gathered around two students and when i went over, i realized that they were all watching the two students draw. when i saw the pictures, they were actually really good! i asked them if they had art class and was surprised to hear them say ‘no.’ i got the impression that since there were no art classes, it was the academic teachers’ responsibility to add some sort of arts and crafts to a few of the lessons. regardless, it was really sad to see that the only things they are learning are math, literacy, and science. If i only had those options, i wouldn’t enjoy school at all. 

regarding music, i think music is something that is important to all of the students, it’s a part of their culture. today we went on a field trip and on the bus ride, the kids were as loud and rowdy as ever, but as soon as the bus driver turned the radio on, the kids all joined in on singing the song ‘look at me now’-chris brown. honestly, i was so shocked that the yelling and fighting calmed down and that almost all of the students were singing along! after each commercial break, the bus seemed to go from crazy and loud to calm and collective. i think the students’ love for music should be supported by the school by having music class of some sort. i know that some of the students have violin lessons, but maybe something more relatable to the students will be beneficial.

sock puppets my class made!

because we went to a field trip to watch a puppet show, my teacher decided that we should make puppets and do a few shows in the class. the kids were told to get into groups and think of a plot first. the plot could be a re-make of the play we just watched or of anything that happened in the class this school year. it was encouraging to see that the kids still remembered some of the lessons they learned throughout the year and they were actually willing to think hard and write scripts because they were going to be making sock puppets. throughout the whole project, the kids were so excited and there was minimal arguing and a lot of creativity when it came to the sock puppets.

even when i asked a few of the students what they wanted to be when they grow up, a lot of them said they wanted to go to art schools and have occupations such as artists, video game designers, and wedding designers. i feel like it’s important to encourage students with the arts at an early age and keep it going throughout all of their schooling.

although art was a minor detail in the course of my two days in school, i found it to be one of the most important things. as we learned in class, it’s important to accommodate to your students’ learning stylesand i believe that art and music is a great way for the students to learn.

a few of the girls in my class (drawing in their free time of course!) 🙂

Hali Chung Blog #1- Note to Educators

I feel so blessed to have been given this opportunity to be a part of Philadelphia Urban Seminar. I honestly don’t know what to expect, but I know that it’ll be an experience worth remembering. Through this, I hope to learn many things including how a classroom in an urban setting is run and controlled and what about education specifically attracts me to want to become a teacher.

I’ve heard that teaching in an urban classroom is very different and more difficult than teaching in a suburban or rural school. Although I find it hard to believe the accuracy of the scenes in movies where the students are taking over the teacher, a little of it gets to me and I can’t help but wonder if I will end up like that teacher. No doubt, there is always a way to change students’ behavior, but HOW do we make that happen? HOW do we as teachers control a classroom? Even further, how do we PREVENT rowdiness and bad behavior from starting in the first place? In the article, Note to Educators, there was a question that a teacher, Ms. Truth, posed that stood out to me. After retelling her horrible day of managing her students who were very upset by a shooting, she asks, “How would you handle this?” To be honest, I have no idea how I would handle it. The article says, “. If we are serious about giving our children hope, we must reflect on how to connect our pedagogy to the harsh realities of poor, urban communities.” Ms. Truth didn’t ignore the situation as many other teachers would have done, but instead, she got herself involved in helping out those who lost a loved one. She took care of her class through the crisis and as a result, she instilled hope in her students. Through Philadelphia Urban Seminar, I hope to learn the skills necessary in being an urban teacher who is able to control a classroom in good and bad times and who is able to bring hope to students no matter what.

When I was in elementary school, I decided that I wanted to become a teacher because of all of the wonderful teachers I’ve had. Even throughout middle school and high school, my dream continued to stay the same but the more I thought about it, the more I became unsure. Questions would pop into my head, “Why do you want to be a teacher?” “Are you just choosing this occupation because you’re not good at anything else?” I guess since I never gave too much thought to it, I always just KNEW that this is what I wanted to do. After three semesters in college, I found my many reasons for wanting to teach, but this is my first opportunity since my realizations to see it in action. I don’t know if I’m being confusing right now, but throughout these two weeks, I’d really love to see the aspects and effects of teaching that motivates me to teach. Even further, relating to the reading, i’d love to see how hope plays out in a classroom. Is there already hope in the classroom? If not, what is the teacher doing to encourage hope? Is the teacher motivated enough to try?

One of the most important things I find in teaching is the ability to be able to connect to your students. As it says in the reading, “audacious hope demands that we reconnect to the collective by struggling alongside one another, sharing in the victories and the pain.” If we do not force ourselves to try to be understanding and have empathy, we will not have a connection with our students and we will not give our students hope. I think that teaching students how to better express their emotions is an important part in education because not only will it improve their social skills, but it helps us as teachers help our students. Being able to see from a students’ perspective is the key to understanding them. A student may seem like a “bad student,” when in reality, they may be having problems at home or with their friends. It is important to remember not to judge students by the way they first look or behave or even by rumors we may have heard about them. By learning how to communicate with students, we can slowly turn pain into hope.

By the end of these two weeks, I hope to have seen and learned these things as well as many others I didn’t specify. Although I have many fears going into all of this, I know that I’ll be able to overcome them and learn   so   much   more.