How to build empathy in the classroom

message of love

This month, on the 12th June it was Empathy Day. It was a great reminder to schools, parents and children of the need to focus on empathy so we can build a more caring society.

In our increasingly digitised world, we are in danger of creating a generation of disconnected children. Bullying, cheating and mental health issues amongst children are on the rise. Cultivating empathy in the classroom is now more important than ever.

Every teacher passionate about what they do is invested in not only teaching children the curriculum, but also in inspiring children to love learning outside of the classroom. Children need to be able to enjoy experiences with other people, visit different places and seek learning opportunities outside of school.

Teaching empathy is an essential anti-bullying strategy. It is also essential for diminishing social prejudices and encouraging social behaviour. What is more, empathy education has been shown to boost academic success. Educational psychologist, Michele Borba, has written a book, UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World. It is a book that all parents and teachers should read.

Start your empathy building programme in the classroom with our 4 top tips.

1 – Connect with new people and places

It is partly through connecting with different people and places that children can be exposed to new ideas and perspectives which help to break down barriers and build empathy. One school, based in New York, uses Skype and Google Hangout to connect pupils with museums and other professional places students wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to visit.

Another way to connect your students with new people and ideas is through a charity. Get involved with a local charity. Get the charity to come into the classroom and talk to the children about what they do.

2 – Random acts of kindness

Set up a set day each week or each month where students are encouraged to show a random act of kindness to a teacher, caretaker or peer at school. It could be something simple, like thanking someone for help or for the great job they are doing.

3 – Encourage listening and sharing

Group Of Elementary School Children Working Together In Computer Class

Listening and the sharing of views without casting judgement is fundamental to growing empathy. Create spaces within the learning environment for children to have their views heard. Encourage listening. Understanding how others feel is an important part of building empathy.

4 – Provide collaborative opportunities

Project work where pupils can share ideas and get a sense of others perspectives is a great way to teach empathy. The ability to collaborate is a life skill that children need to succeed and to function and participate in society. Just like any other skill, how to collaborate can be taught and will help children to grow empathy for other people and understand their different points of view.

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