Empathy – a word that reflects compassion and kindness is indeed essential, and it is such an exceptional quality that each child should incorporate into their personality. Equally, having students’ check in’ to an online class with an emoji, gif, or picture about their feelings could help foster empathy when only verbal cues are present because it provides another way for students to understand how their peer feels beyond a verbal cue.
How do you introduce empathy in the classroom?
In online class teaching, it’s highly essential to induce empathy in the classroom and maintain a positive atmosphere. It’s a straightforward process but an essential one. Its five necessary steps include:
- Demonstrate empathy. When you’re frustrated with a student, take a deep breath and try to see the situation from their point of view before responding.
- Teach what empathy is and why it is important
- Establish clear ethical expectations
- Prioritise school culture and climate
Regardless of what is going on in the world, teachers can create an environment in their classroom that is inclusive, tolerable, and optimistic. Feeling and demonstrating empathy for others is one of the fundamental social and emotional learning ideas which has emerged as a critical area of academic focus in recent years. Empathy is the action of comprehending, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing another’s feelings, thoughts, and experiences without having those feelings, thoughts, and experiences fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner—putting oneself in the shoes of another. Teaching empathy in schools can help students understand different perspectives on others’ realities and develop compassion for their emotions. The level of empathy taught in students’ homes is uncertain and not guaranteed, which may result in biases and prejudices that persist throughout childhood and adolescence. Teachers, counsellors, and administrators can teach empathy to ensure their students are exposed to these social and emotional learning topics and emphasise their significance. Empathy is more than a reaction. For empathy to have a profound impact, there must first be a trusting relationship—that the student is essential to us as their instructor (Fuller 2008). It is the realisation that our course is more than just content; it is a platform for modelling life skills sorely lacking in our society: empathy, pity, concern, and grace. Students miss out on the critical social aspects of higher education that help to create a sense of community and engagement when there are no physical classrooms or campuses. Consider incorporating a virtual ‘water cooler’ into your course and creating spaces outside of class, such as a discussion board or social media page, where students can answer questions about their real-life interests in an informal, fun manner.
Fostering social connections with your students helps!
In a traditional classroom setting, students get to know one another through informal networking during and after class. Distance learning has taken off, but that doesn’t mean students should forego the social aspect of the learning experience. With physical barriers in place, it may be even more critical for teachers to make an effort to foster social connections among students. Break the ice to get the process started. This could be as simple as creating a “introduce yourself” discussion thread or using icebreakers (applicable in a synchronous or asynchronous learning environment). While it is best to do this at the beginning of an online course, icebreakers can also be used as a warm-up for group work. Most of us who have found ourselves in the teaching profession did so because it was something we enjoyed doing. We wanted to connect with students and engage them in meaningful ways, but how do we incorporate this in online class teaching? It’s difficult enough to engage meaningfully in a face-to-face environment, so being asked to demonstrate empathy and respect is a tall order:
- To show interest in students’ concerns
- Seek to understand their diverse talents, needs, prior knowledge, and approaches to learning
- Encourage interaction between ourselves and learners
- Share my love of the discipline
Empathy in the classroom can help students manage their anxiety and stay engaged during uncertain times. Take the time to acknowledge the difficulties they are currently experiencing. With virtual office hours, you can let them know you’re available to them. Even if you can’t be in the same room, this can help build rapport with students.
How does empathy differ from sympathy?
Sympathy is a feeling of concern and care for another person, accompanied by a wish for them to be better off or happier Sympathy can sometimes lead to empathy, but not always. For example, while it is possible to sympathise with animals such as dogs and birds, it is impossible to empathise with them. Whereas sympathy is the ability to feel sorrow or pity for another’s misfortune, empathy is the ability to understand another’s feelings from their point of view. It’s similar to immersing yourself in their emotions.
Can You Teach Empathy?
Some people believe that empathy is a fixed, innate trait you either have or don’t. This is not the case. Empathy does not always come naturally. Even better, it isn’t limited to a single ability or skill. As a result, empathy can be taught.
Empathy is composed of three distinct processes:
- Ability to reason from the perspective of another
- Sharing another’s emotions
- a pure and inner desire to assist
Fortunately, all of these processes are highly influenced by learning.
Empathy is a quality that may seem easy but is difficult when it comes down to incorporating it into your day-to-day attitude. In all interactions with your students, teachers must put sincere efforts and strive to be exceedingly kind and understanding. You can alleviate your students’ suffering by demonstrating empathy and understanding instantly. Remember, students do not have signs on their foreheads displaying their anxieties or home-life situations during online classes. The educator has the knowledge to identify it at the right time and relax them simultaneously. To improve your teaching profession, consider upskilling yourself and learning new techniques. Dedicated teaching skills improvement courses by Suraasa can help you set up the perfect career path in teaching. Check out their website and get started today!