The ability to put yourself in the other’s shoes can and should be a classroom-stimulated ability. To teach empathy, educators can adopt simple exercises in the students routine. Practices range from individual writing exercises to group activities, which help them reflect on how to treat each other.
Empathy is an important aspect for students lives and it is also fundamental to an entrepreneurial career. Investing in your own business means working with different people, with diverse life stories and experiences. So the sooner it gets developed, the better!
How to teach empathy in the school environment
The school environment is very conducive for young people to practice empathy. Knowing their colleagues can help develop this skill and thus make it easier to practice with unknown people. But how to stimulate it in the school routine? Check out four practical tips that can be easily accomplished in the classroom:
- Exchanging experiences: bringing students together in groups so that they can talk about their life experiences is fundamental so that they understand each other’s realities. Personal reports make them create bonds of understanding and solidarity. Experts say that talking about feelings helps break the barriers of individualism. Invest in group activities with specific themes and ask students to think over them by sharing their reflections. Socialization and dialogue are fundamental in this process of empathy perception and practice.
- Books can be your best friends: In addition to personal experiences, literature can also help. Telling stories of characters from different books encourages students to identify themselves with different realities. The other person, who once seemed distant from his daily life, has another influence on his reflections. Organizing storytelling sessions and also reading clubs may be a good strategy to put empathy on the classroom schedule.
- Set limits: In every activity, it is important that young people have independence so that they feel responsible for their attitudes and have a sense of how they impact the lives of others. Therefore, avoid extreme posture both on permissiveness and authoritarianism. The solution is to measure both characteristics so that the student has a real perception of the limits and of how values such as respect and compassion are essential for the community. Empathy is, above all else, about understanding that you are not alone.
- Practical activity: On a sheet of paper, have the students divide the space into two columns. On the left, they will write about encounters with people they do not necessarily identify with. On the right, they will register other types of experience, such as peers’ perceptions of certain facts or even news stories they have had contact with. Then, they will color their experiences: green for those considered positive, blue for neutral experiences and red for the negative. That way, they will be able to visualize more easily which situations are difficult to understand and how the evaluations of others influence their experiences. Example: In the left column, the student evaluates as negative the experience he had with a foreign neighbor. But, when describing, in the right column, a story about the migratory crisis in the world, he realizes that his negative assessment has to do with a media construction on that subject. By reaching that awareness, he can revise his stance in the face of that situation and be sure how empathy, in this case, can make a difference. By doing this group activity, students can further share their findings and help each other analyze their experiences.
These are just a few suggestions on how empathy can be worked out in the classroom. Teaching empathy for young people is a task that must be shared with the whole group of educators to be inserted into the school routine in different subjects and contents. And you, what positive experiences related to empathy have you put into practice in the classroom?