Monday, December 29, 2014

Walking in their shoes

The holiday season typically offers the full range of emotions.  This year has been no exception.  It warms my heart to help our families, and it has also created reflection.

This year we were able to assist a handful of families that have experienced a plethora of challenges. Just a few of the challenges have been, a fire, loss of job and living apart for the better part of a year. When I reached out to the mom and offered to help, she cried.  She was very grateful.  We chatted on the phone about the kids and about what she was going through.  My heart hurt for her, and this is also where I had a turning point.

After hanging up the phone I sat back and thought about her situation.  I thought about the kids.  This is where I felt extremely sympathetic, but I was having a tough time putting myself in her shoes and feeling truly empathetic.  I've worked with this family for a few years and during that time I've experienced some doubt and I wondered if the family was doing everything they could.  

Each year we receive a new set of students in our classrooms and schools.  Every student has a story, every family has a history.  I believe we in education do a phenomenal job at sympathizing with families, but we can be better, I can be better.  As I look ahead to 2015 I want to better understand families situations so that I can walk in their shoes and show true empathy.

I've realized this is something I need to improve on, but in my own reflection as a person I've come to look at my own two boys.  At times I see them showing sympathy, but I don't think either one have an understanding of empathy.  If my two boys typically do not show empathy, how many of our Warner students don't either?  At this point I see a bigger issue.  As a society I do believe we sympathize and feel for people in unfortunate situations, but I don't think we truly empathize with them.  I don't think you have to look far to understand where I'm coming from.  So how do we begin to improve?  Here are three suggestions:

1)  Focus on your own child's social and emotional needs.  We cannot expect our kids to show empathy if they are not able to cope with their own needs.  Promote problem-solving and determination. Teach your child how to bounce back from adverse situations.

2)  Seize everyday opportunities.  Our kids watch and listen to our actions.  Take these opportunities to discuss your thought process.  When you happen to see someone under stress, talk about what they must be feeling.  Discussing emotions can be a good way to start getting kids to empathize with the world around them.

3)  Find commonalities in people and situations.  Kids are more likely to show empathy if they are able to relate.  When reading a book or watching a television show, discuss similarities with your child.  Talking about characters has the ability to humanize the situation, and create reflection and thought.

I'm proud of our Warner kids and I know my own boys have good hearts.  This year I'm hoping to help them take the next step.  I want them to learn empathy and to choose kind every time.

As for me, I have a lot of room to grow.  Our experiences shape us as people, and I will do my best to walk in the shoes of others.

Articles Worth Reading:

Onward to 2015 @Glennr1809

Too soon? @Jonharper70bd

Day One @DJrSchug

Can We Change Ed Reform? @joesanfelippofc

Videos Worth Watching:

The Year in Ideas, Ted Talks 2014 (8 min)

2014: Year in Review (2 min)

Will You Choose to Soar in 2015? Inspiring story of Charlotte Brown (10 min)

1 comment:

  1. I will continue to walk vicariously in your shoes ! Thank you for sharing your heart with us! #bestyearever :2015 I learn so much from your reflection.