Can Sympathy and Empathy be Taught? by @RichardJARogers

Six ways to teach empathy

Maybe we do need to teach kids how to care, after all.

So here are the six ways to teach empathy

  1. Teach kids about emotions: Children need to know what emotions are, and how to identify them. Once kids have identified those emotions, they can then learn how to manage them. Progress in this area has been heavily fueled by the Mindfulness in Schools strategy, which teaches the importance of observing one’s thoughts and emotions, rather than reacting by reflex-action. Check out their website – it’s well worth a look!
  2. Read and watch TV with your children: I guess this could work in a parent-student, teacher-student and student-student dynamic. The key is to get the kids thinking about and discussing how the characters feel in different parts of the story. It still amazes me when I watch a movie in the cinema and people laugh when some character gets killed or something bad happens. Movies are strange entities because in some cases they play on human emotion positively by creating more empathy, but in some genres repeated watching can lead to desensitization.
  3. After conflicts, have a reflection: This is a classic tried-and-tested technique, and it works well. “How do you think Sarah felt about what you said? How would you feel if someone said that about you?”. Getting young people to reflect on the emotional consequences of their actions can have profound, long-term effects on their character and personality.
  4. Set an example by resolving conflicts in your own life: Probably more applicable to parents than teachers, or teacher-parents, but well-worth mentioning. If you have an argument with your wife in front of your kids, for example, you must also make-up in front of them too. With your students in school, you could get them to shake hands after an argument and get them to say sorry to one another.
  5. Express feelings on behalf of those who cannot speak: Babies, pets and, in some cases, disabled people, cannot express their emotions verbally or through other means. Discuss with your students or children what the feelings of these individuals might be when the opportunity arises.
  6. Be a good role-model of respect and decency: Show courtesy. Be respectful of people who have different opinions or beliefs than you do (unless those beliefs threaten life, health or safety – then you’ll have to take action in a sensible, emotionally-detached way). Let your students see you showing respect for those around you who may have a different religious belief system, or political opinion, than you do. It’s very sad to see politicians arguing on TV, for example, when they should show greater respect for one another.

Conclusion

  • Research has shown that empathy is decreasing in young people
  • Materialism is associated with anxiety, depression and the breakdown of relationships
  • There is a case to be made for the rigorous and broad teaching of empathy to kids in schools
  • There are ways to deliberately teach empathy to children, and six have been identified here

This article was originally published at https://richardjamesrogers.com/2018/07/08/can-sympathy-and-empathy-be-taught/

Illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati 

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About Richard Rogers 64 Articles
Richard James Rogers received both his bachelor's degree and his PGCE from Bangor University (Wales, UK). This was an excellent foundation for the steep learning curve that would follow as he pursued his career as a teacher of Science and Mathematics at UK state schools, and afterwards at elite international schools in Asia. His 14 years of full time teaching experience have seen him instruct IGCSE German, KS3 and 4 Science and Mathematics and three subjects at 'advanced level': Biology, Chemistry and Mathematics. He also went on to lead a team of students to win the Thailand Tournament of Minds Championship in 2012 and has been an active educational blogger, columnist and online pedagogical content editor since 2010. His debut book: 'The Quick Guide to Classroom Management: 45 Secrets That All High School Teachers Need to Know', was rated 9.5 out of 10 in a recent UKEdChat book review, and offers an overview of what, in his experience and research, works best when it comes to engaging your learners and being happy in your job as a high school teacher.

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