Denise Brend muses on the pain and joy that empathy for one’s students can bring; Karen Ridd passionately talks about how to create a nonviolent classroom that creates the positive relationships and openness we seek; and we present a few other very accessible articles on the human potential for empathy.
Empathy and the Self of the Teacher
Empathy bears a special meaning for relational professions such as teaching and social service work. Many theorists and researchers have asserted that it is the pathway through which we promote healing, but also through which we are at risk of wounding. When we put ourselves into the shoes of another, we may find ourselves feeling what they are feeling.
As educators this shared experience can be incredible- feeling with our students as a concept makes sense for the first time or watching as new realities form. Conversely, when students join us in times of turmoil in their lives, or when the material in the classroom strikes a painful chord, our chests may tighten as our hearts align with theirs. As I walk in to teach, I bring this knowledge with me. This is part of how I promote empathy for my students; I have it with them, and for them, but also with and for my self.
Social Services, Dawson College
Karen Ridd, mediator, educator and nonviolent activist, offers some inspiring words on teaching in this video from our 2011 Youth and Violence Conference.
Click here for a couple of other instructive videos from our conference: watch anti-bullying expert Marilyn Noble discuss practical ways to create an inclusive classroom environment and discover the potential of nonviolent communication to create a positive learning environment with Jean-Philippe Bouchard et Valérie Lanctôt-Bédard.
And read a few more articles on empathy posted by University of California Berkeley’s Greater Goodness Science Center
- “The Compassionate Instinct”: Dacher Keltner examines how compassion and benevolence are an evolved part of human nature rooted in our brain and biology.
- “The Evolution of Empathy”: Primatologist Frans de Waal shows how empathy is not simply a human trait; watch his wonderful Ted’s Talk video on the right side of this page.
- “Six Habits of Highly Empathic People”: Roman Krznaric illustrates the potential of empathy to transform our world.