Whenever any group gains additional recognition and rights, empathy plays a central role. But, what exactly is empathy?
Lately, the concept has become a bit of a buzzword.
New Agers claim to be empaths that can constantly feel other people’s emotions and must shield their energy against this sometimes draining form of compassion. Celebrity CEOs are praised for being empathetic leaders despite little evidence to support that this is actually true. Finally, some personality and developmental disorders are characterized by a reduced capacity for experiencing empathy, leading to ableist criticism of people diagnosed with these conditions.
Meanwhile, Psychology Today simply defines empathy as, “the ability to recognize, understand, and share the thoughts and feelings of another person, animal, or fictional character.” While some people may have a greater innate capacity for empathy than others, it’s ultimately a skill that can be cultivated over time. Doing so is important because empathy is central to maintaining relationships and making choices that are driven by genuine compassion. Some recent studies also indicate that, despite all the buzz about it, empathy is on the decline.
Consciously introducing empathy into your classroom (or boardroom) is key to ensuring that future generations understand empathy--not just as a buzzword, but as a valuable skill that anyone can choose to utilize more effectively. By teaching lessons specifically about empathy, as well as by deliberately re-shaping the classroom environment to be more empathetic, both students and teachers benefit as their academic, social, and emotional needs are better met.
Start Empathy by Ashoka is a free, downloadable, 85-page guide to centering your classroom on empathy. It draws from a combination of experience and research to provide information, tools, and complete lesson plans. A colorful, breezy layout makes it easy to skim and access the parts you need when you need them. Alternatively, reading the guide cover-to-cover is an inspiring way to spend a summer day planning for the upcoming school year.
As we celebrate Pride, and collectively acknowledge all the barriers that the LGBTQIA+ community has both overcome and continues to face, empathy feels more important than ever.
While Start Empathy is relevant to all subjects, you can access it in the health and wellness section of EWL’s curated data bank ResourceHQ.
ResourceHQ is a collection of programs and materials that can either stand on their own or be integrated into the unit plans that will soon be available via EducatorHQ.
Do you have experience with Start Empathy by Ashoka? Or, is there a resource you’d like us to consider for inclusion in ResourceHQ? Send you feedback and suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.