Empathy

This short video helps the watcher to understand what empathy is and demonstrates and example of it action.
I think before we can demonstrate inclusion we need to teach our students about empathy.  I was researching what that might look like in the classroom and found the friend to friend group.  They would be a great way to teach your class about how we are all different and how its those differences which make us rich.  Using puppets, stories and real life scenarios would be a great way to learn about anything, right?
I contacted them and because I am not part of a non-profit organization they will not train me or give me the materials to teach this.  I will continue to look into it as this would be an amazing tool to have in any school, and especially in my own classroom.

Friend to friend http://www.friend2friendsociety.org/childrens-programs/puppets/

This is an inclusive program designed to foster understanding, acceptance and empathy in all who participate

Friend 2 Friend Social Learning Society is a British Columbia-based not-for-profit organization formed in 2002 for the purpose of promoting mutually rewarding …
Many classes here in Victoria do a program called roots of empathy.  This is where they bring in a new born baby and together as a class they watch the baby grow for the entire year.  I think this is great for some learners.  My son who is on the autism spectrum disorder did not learn empathy this way.  He has no interest in babies at all, he finds them loud, smelly and boring.  He can’t understand why they have a different rule rubric then he does and is annoyed by that.  He would however respond to the puppet program.  I don’t think only one way of teaching anything is enough as there are 25+ students who all have different learning styles in every classroom.
The great thing about teaching Empathy inside a classroom is there are always teaching moments that will come up during the day surrounding empathy.  For example: If a students pet dies, we can talk about why this is upsetting and how we should be a little extra gentle or understanding as that student is having a hard day.  This will go hand in hand with perspective taking.  These skills are taught or should be taught all day everyday without even knowing it.  Its taking it a step further and teaching it explicitly for meaning that will make the difference for a lot of students.
A funny story about our own pet dying… My youngest son is on the Autism spectrum and empathy is a difficult piece for him.  My eldest son was very upset crying when George our hamster suddenly died.  My youngest son says “why is he crying so much?” I say “well typically when a pet dies it is upsetting and creates a feeling of sadness making people cry”. He responded with “well it wasn’t even a real pet, I never got to play with it”.  Fair enough.
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Why isn’t inclusion easy?

All people have a deep desire to be included, yet we tend to surround ourselves with people who are most like us.  We all know how terrible it feels to be excluded, yet we all do this to other people.  How can we expect children in our classrooms to be inclusive and non judgemental when the teachers and adults surrounding them do not exercise this themselves?

This is a great book about making friends.  Its about self esteem and self worth.  Its about how it is ok to be different and its those differences which make us unique and special.  I think this is a nice demonstration of acceptance, not only for other people to accept us but how we need first to accept ourselves.  This would be a great book to lead into teaching how we are all different and we need to love who we are before we can really fit in anywhere.

I am always trying to instill this concept into my children who are 7 and 9 years old.  Before we go to bed we say “I love who I am”, along with one reason why.  At first this was very difficult for them as it would be for anyone.  Talking positively to ourselves is hard, but once we practice it becomes very easy.  It is like anything, practice makes perfect!  This is no different then teaching our brains to see the beauty in peoples differences, it takes practice.  Once we begin to see the how these difference help us grow, and how diversity is so beautiful, we can allow people to be who they are, and we can be who we are destined to be, ourselves.