Does Empathy Matter in the Classroom?

"Accept what is, let go of what was, and have faith in what will be." Sonia Ricotti

Sitting in a classroom full of high school students, overhearing their conversations, that are filled with gossip and unkind words, "I can't take it anymore... that's enough.

While that ended the conversation , I can't leave it at that. That only stops the conversation and unkindness for a moment, it needs to change, and the words need to be understood. They need to grasp the power of their words, and the way that they make people feel.

They're boldly proclaiming that they don't feel bad for the men in his low twenties who just emerged from rehab, and fell back into drug use... it's his fault.

They don't feel bad for people that are overweight... they should exercise more and eat less.

And the girl that everyone hates... well she should stop being a slut.

Kindly, gently, calmly I remind them that we all have different problems, we're all fighting different battles. None of us are perfect.

They agree for a moment, and quickly respond, that it's not that hard not to do drugs, or to not be overweight.

For a moment I agree , sure for you and for me, perhaps those things aren't that hard. But it's hard for me to take big risks, it's hard for me to trust. It appears that it's hard for you to forgive, and to think outside of yourself.

We're starting to get somewhere now.

Then I ask, what are you afraid of?

Student: I'm afraid of failing

Student: I'm afraid of spiders

Student: I'm afraid that I'm not good enough

Through this conversation, students begin to understand that we all have fears, and we all deal with those feelings of fear in different ways, some more acceptable than others.
Within every conversation there lies an opportunity to talk to teens and students about how they feel, you just need to be willing to listen and to ask.

" Empathy matters not just because it makes you good, but because it is good for you. It has the power to heal broken relationships, erode our prejudices , expand our curiosity about strangers and make us rethink our ambitions ultimately empathy creates the human bounds that make life worth living." Krznaric