Empathy in Classrooms

Aditi Banerji

Principal, Lodha World School, Palava

On the first day, as children walk in to through the portals of the school, a myriad of emotions is palpable. Parents who have come to drop their pre-primary children to school for the first time are excited, overwhelmed as their little one is taking their first step towards formal schooling. This is when I pause and wonder what is it that the world of education is offering to our new generation! Technology, knowledge, different languages – the bouquet of offerings is vast.

We say we are preparing our children to be global citizens. Every educational institution offers a gamut of sports, extracurricular and co-curricular activities, new learning methodologies, and much more. Is this all that we need? We are equipping our children with a lot of skills such as problem-solving, critical thinking which we feel makes them 21st-century ready. However, is there something more that we can do?

Let’s bring in a lot of empathy in our classrooms. So what is EMPATHY? It is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Empathy involves a good deal of listening. Listening is the most effective way to demonstrate to each other that we care. Listening builds a bridge between two or more people. Being able to practice empathy is one of the most important skills we can teach our children. In a world that spends so much time picking at flaws, fear and anger being ignited at small issues, empathy is the balm which can keep worries at bay and calm down the anger. It helps us to be aware of and sensitive to the feelings and needs of others.

We need to take empathy to our classrooms using very simple techniques. We can demonstrate empathy which would encourage children to imbibe the skill. Most of it can be done in our value education classes; however, the process needs to be incorporated into all our lessons.

  • Build a bridge. Empathy involves listening and opening up. We need to share our thoughts with a kindred spirit. In turn, we also learn to listen. It is a two-way street.
  • Look around and focus. Take in your surroundings, pay attention to the people around you. Sometimes we drive by without noticing what’s around us. We need to be mindful, and in turn, our children will learn that too.
  • Withhold judgment. We judge events immediately, whether they are good or bad. Before we pass judgment, we need to understand the other person’s perspective, think clearly, and then react. Gaining a deeper perspective helps in developing empathy towards others.
  • Offer a helping hand. Offering to help is an integral part of expressing empathy. It shows that you understand another person’s need and are willing to go out of your way to help them.

These are just a few ways in which we can bring empathy into our classrooms. Encouraging children to listen, share, help, reach out, be sensitive to each other’s feelings is a step towards our goal of fostering empathy. Make it part of your daily life. If we help our children to be non-judgmental, they will be able to reason and look at difficult situations with a lot of thought. It will help them solve issues with thoughtfulness. That is what the world needs today. Taking empathy to classrooms would make our schools and society beautiful.

Aditi Banerji

Principal , Lodha World School, Palava