Empathy and Education

A Teacher's Perception

While most of the time students come to class as you would expect, sometimes they can be agitated, sad, angry, or frustrated; the whole realm of emotions can be seen in a classroom atmosphere. As a teacher, I have seen it all.

It is my personal mission in my classroom to not only teach the lesson and mold young minds but to find a way to connect with my students. I begin every lesson with chit-chat about their week—the highs and lows, and letting them know that whatever they are feeling, they are not alone, and that I care. For me, it is not acting the part of a teacher. I am genuinely interested in their lives. I learn about their hobbies, their family, their favorite food. They become surprised when months later I still remember some random fact that they told me about themselves.

It is important to treat others as you would like to be treated and to be empathetic to the quandary they are facing. In relation to this is learning as a teacher to not just be an educator, but to be an amazing listener. Does this mean just listening to words? Not at all. As educators, we must listen to tone, body language, and even the quality of their work. One student I had started turning in assignments that were not up to her capability. After a couple of weeks, I asked her what was going on, and because I had built that relationship over many months, she opened up and told me that she was very sad that her family was moving in the near future far from their current home. She was worried about leaving her friends and her school. Her emotional state was affecting her ability to function at the level she was capable of and having someone empathize with her and let her express those emotions relieved some of her anxiety.

Being empathetic helps teachers to better understand what is behind behavior and be able to utilize strategies to help students find a balance. Often children are not emotionally capable of handling those big emotions and as teachers, showing empathy, we can make them feel comfortable and build an amazing, trustful student-teacher relationship.

Empathy, an essential skill in communicating with children, is a quality that all teachers must strive to incorporate in their day-to-day interactions. Be that teacher. Be empathetic.