Building Empathy Muscles in the Classroom

Connection and love, Feelings and emotions, Self regulation, Tips & Tools

Teaching is easier when your students look out for each other, connect with each other, and can self-regulate when challenging situations arise. That calls for empathy. Building empathy requires opportunities to practice, learn, and make mistakes in a safe classroom environment. Here are some ideas to increase empathy in your classroom:

  • Practice naming feelings. When a student is upset, you can connect before you respond by saying, “You seem upset and….”
  • Teach emotional language. You can use an activity like Sad Mad Scared Glad in the Positive Discipline in the School and Classroom Manual as a starting place. The manual
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Sharing and “Seeing Big”

Connection and love, Feelings and emotions, Growing Responsibility, Tips & Tools
Parents often ask, “How to I get my kids to share?” I think underneath they are asking even bigger and more important questions: “How do I teach my children to see the world beyond their skin?" "How do I teach empathy?" "How do I teach them to see the world through another person’s eyes so that they can be curious, compassionate and contribute to making the world a better place?” These are questions all of us ask – sometimes about our children, about our colleagues and yes – even about ourselves.
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Growing Empathy

Connection and love, Self-care, Tips & Tools
Empathy is a word that gets used a lot these days. What IS it really? I like Brené Brown’s (of TED talk fame) definition: “the skill or ability to tap into our own experiences in order to connect with an experience someone is relating to us.” Empathy is what helps us sense that we are not alone in the world. It connects us to others and, as Brené Brown reminds us, it is the “antidote” to shame.
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From “Mis-takes” to Compassion

Connection and love, Feelings and emotions, Mistakes yours and theirs, Tips & Tools
It turns out that the distinction between “I made a mistake” and “I am a mistake” is a big deal. When we make a mistake, we may feel bad, but we can learn from what we did. When we come to the erroneous conclusion that we are a mistake, that there is something wrong with us as a person or that we are defective, that becomes the main “learning.”
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