A few months ago, I quoted a poignant observation found in an article written by Joshua Freedman who was reflecting on his own mistakes, notably his failures of empathy, in dealing with his son’s constant procrastination when it came to doing his homework.
Hopefully, tomorrow I’ll remember to take that all-important pause and ask myself: I wonder what’s really going on for him right now? That moment of curiosity is the doorway to empathy, and it’s a game changer.
Freedman’s article was published on Start Empathy, which is the blog of an Ashoka initiative dedicated to building a future in which every child masters empathy. Empathy is a critical component of thriving relationships and in an increasingly volatile environment of accelerating change, it is especially urgent that we help our children understand and activate their capacity for empathy. One of the most impactful ways to help children understand empathy is to model it ourselves in our interactions with them. It starts with listening and a genuine curiosity and openness to understanding each child’s point of view and experience. Which is exactly what Colorado teacher Kyle Schwartz does in her third grade classroom. Schwartz has been asking her students to finish the phrase, “I wish my teacher knew….” and after recently joining Twitter, she has been posting photographs of her students responses. The hashtag #IWishMyTeacherKnew is now being used by teachers everywhere. Here is a wonderful example of how easy and accessible it is to model and infuse empathy in the classroom. Bravo, Ms. Schwartz!