Today’s children are growing up in a world much different than their parents. Even in elementary school, social media dominates communication and by moving much of their human interaction online, they aren’t learning and developing true empathy as they would by having one-on-one interactions with peers. Social media makes it easy to bully others or say hurtful things because it creates the illusion of a wall between people, a wall that prevents one person from seeing in-person how much words can truly hurt. Children learn empathy when they can express their feelings and emotions with one another. Now more than ever, children need help learning empathy and the classroom is the best place to start.
How Teachers Can Teach Empathy
Be a good example. Students look to adults to learn how to act with one another. Show empathy to students in need and the other students will pick up on it and model your behavior.
Listen closely. When a child expresses their feelings, listen to them. The problem is theirs and they need to feel that their feelings are valid and that they are not alone. When you are focused on the feelings the child is expressing, you’re not only showing the other children how to listen, but you’re also showing that child and the others that it’s okay to express their feelings.
Teach Acceptance. Children need to understand they can accept another child’s feelings even if they don’t agree with them, that it’s a matter of respecting another person’s feelings.
Teens Need Help Too
Teaching empathy isn’t just important in elementary school. Older kids have the capacity for learning empathy too but peer pressure can get in the way of expressing it. The main way to teach empathy to teens is by modeling the behavior and showing them the importance of listening to and standing up for the feelings of other people. Encourage students to do the same.
It can be helpful, and maybe even a little eye-opening to do a blind survey for students to determine if the student population has witnessed or has experienced bullying, whether or not they feel safe in the school environment, and feel comfortable expressing their feelings. The results will show you where the school needs improvement and should focus its efforts.
Another way to develop empathy in students is to look to outside programs for help. Many effective programs are available that teach the importance of empathy and developing good character. At Eagle College Prep Elementary, we utilize the Character Formation Project. This program helps students find their Greater Purpose and grow character by learning about their Identity (Who am I?), their Purpose (Why am I?), and their Actions (How shall I live?). Through this program, the students at Eagle College Prep are developing character that will bring them academic and emotional success throughout their educational experiences and into the future. Developing good character means developing strong empathetic behaviors.
At Eagle College Prep, a student’s character formation journey is as important as their academic growth. We serve the St. Louis area, giving families an educational choice for their children that will prepare them for success in a career as well as success in life. For more information on the exciting things we do at Eagle College Preparatory Schools, visit our website or call us at (314) 664-7627.