The article is worth a read itself, but I want to highlight a couple of points in the article I found interesting:
- In many high-poverty schools, up to 60 percent of children experience stress levels that can impair functioning. Dr. Cantor understood that addressing those needs was the work of every teacher and administrator, not just one or two guidance counselors.
- Empathy has long been seen as key to effective teaching. Addressing the host of unmet social and emotional needs that students carry into the classroom demands that teachers be able to look below the surface and understand what’s driving a particular set of behaviors.
- It’s not just teachers who can benefit. According to a recent Harvard study, cultivating empathy among students has been linked to a variety of desirable outcomes, including positive peer relationships, better communication skills, and fewer interpersonal conflicts.
- Yet the study’s authors found that the stresses caused by trauma—including feelings of inferiority, envy, and depression—can act as obstacles to empathy. Children confronting acute stress may struggle to take on others’ perspectives, not out of an inherent lack of ability, but because of the way stress impacts the brain.
- Students develop “democratic habits of mind”: the capacity to step into the shoes of others and to listen to and examine other viewpoints with an open mind; to evaluate evidence, and to understand the many possible consequences of a particular action; and to grow up to be—to quote its mission statement—“smart, caring, strong, resilient, imaginative and thoughtful.”
- While each [programme] was born out of different circumstances and each employs different strategies, all are attempts to change the very hard-wiring in the brain, influencing how children interact with one another and how they view themselves, how they play on the playground, and how they behave years later. They have less to do with what students are taught than with the relationships between children and adults, teacher professional development, school-wide disciplinary practices, and the underlying culture of a school.
Reference: Unleashing Empathy: how teachers transform classrooms with emotional learning.