The Importance of Empathy Within Your Classroom

By: Megan Arredondo

With so much negativity in the news lately, how can we as educators help our students navigate the world around them?

Lately, there is mounting evidence pointing to the importance of teaching empathy in our classrooms. What is empathy? Empathy, put simply, is the act of putting one’s self in another’s shoes. Empathy requires us to look beyond ourselves and consider how others might be feeling or what they might be experiencing. This is an essential life skill that teaches youth how to go from asking themselves “what’s in it for me?” to “how do my actions affect others?”

Building student’s ability to think emphatically will not only help combat issues such as bullying at the school level, but it is a skill that students can take into the real world and their careers. If our goal as teachers is to shape tomorrow’s leaders, then it only makes sense to build leaders that possess strong academic and emotional skills.

The big question is, how does one teach empathy?

While it might seem a little less daunting of a task to educate kids to care and share in the elementary years when we have time to devote to our group, it becomes more challenging in the later years. When students are coming to us for a single period out of the day, we might feel as though we have limited time to get the content to them- let alone trying to teach something seemingly unrelated to the subject such as empathy. One can overcome this challenge by looking for ways to integrate lessons in empathy throughout the curriculum.

One simple way in which this can be done is by collaborative learning in which students are randomly placed in groups rather than choosing their groups or always placed with the same partners. Other ideas include integrating current events into the curriculum that force students to consider the feelings of others through thought provoking questions or creative projects. Often times, empathy begins with how one is treated and expected to treat others in return. It is hard to be empathetic towards others when our own emotional needs are not met. Showing kids you care about them and expecting them to treat others with respect is an essential first step to developing a culture of compassion.

Other resources to help you integrate empathy into your classroom can be found at Start Empathy and Teaching Tolerance.

What have you tried in your classroom? Let us know!

Teacher’s Corner is a PLI Blog contribution section dedicated to articles and posts written by Proximity Learning Teachers and Educators.