A Valentine’s Day Lesson in Empathy

February 14, 2012

A Valentine’s Day Lesson in Empathy

[caption id="attachment_1084" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Image courtesy of arztsamui"][/caption] One of the big lessons that the stories here on CW try to emphasize is the importance of encouraging emotional intelligence as much as we encourage academic achievement throughout grades K-12. The idea is that being able to relate to your fellow humans is just as important as reciting the ABC’s or the periodic table. By effectively placing ourselves into the shoes of others, we can understand them. This leads to less conflict among children and adults and is one of the key weapons in the fight against school bullying. In early education, that lesson may be even more important, although our testing policy may dictate otherwise. Parents, of course, are the first and most important teachers when it comes to emotional intelligence, but educational professionals play an important role as well. We need to remember to highlight and praise the good deeds of our students, be they 1st graders or high school seniors. By showing that we value emotional intelligence, we reinforce it as an essential element of a successful life. So, on this Valentine’s Day, a day dedicated to love, I wanted to share a story from Mary Dixon Lebeau. It’s a simple tale that illustrates the value of lessons in virtue and empathy and stands as a good reminder of why love and respect should be honored on February 14th and throughout the year. Empathy in Children By Mary Dixon Lebeau A kindergarten teacher shares this story: “The girls on the playground were immersed in a game of dodge ball – all except Kara, who stood outside the group looking on.” “The girls asked her to play, but she shook her head. “I have severe asthma,” she told the other girls. “My mom doesn’t let me run around so much.” “For a few seconds, the game continued. Then, suddenly, Jillian – one of the best athletes in the class – allowed herself to be hit by the ball. She was out, but instead of pouting, Jillian skipped over to Kara and said, “Come on, let’s go on the jungle gym.” The two girls headed over to the playground equipment, giggling.” The teacher pauses, and then admits she isn’t used to seeing such empathy among young children. “Usually children of this age group think the world revolves around them,” she says. “But Jillian displayed a connection to Kara’s feelings, and was unselfish enough to act on it.” In this society, it is valuable to relate to what another person is feeling. The only way we can grow into nurturing, caring, and self-aware adults is to learn the virtue of empathy – the understanding of how others feel and the ability to react with compassion to another’s situation. HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY, CW Readers!



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