We love this quote from L.R. Knost –
“It’s not our job to toughen our children up to face a cruel and heartless world. It’s our job to raise children who will make the world a little less cruel and heartless.”
At CSD, we are committed to teaching the whole child. That statement means a lot of different things, but it definitely includes teaching the head AND the heart. This week we ask each of you to reflect on how you are teaching the “hearts” in your classroom. Are you seizing opportunities to help your students develop their EQ as frequently as their IQ? Recently this article about the “buddy bench” was buzzing all over social media. It embodies what we strive to accomplish in our mission as educators at CSD. We’ve often heard it said that schools are microcosms of society. That may be (and probably is) true. But how cool would it be if we could flip that statement and think of schools as being the microcosm of the next generation? What if as a result of our schools, society became more altruistic, more empathetic, and more compassionate? In this sometimes dreary, self-absorbed world, that’s a thought that gives us hope. And when we witness the magic that occurs daily on our school campuses, we believe that what we’re doing could possibly change the world… So keep fighting the good fight and focusing on the good. You all do an incredible job of educating their “hearts” and “minds,” and we’re quite confident this “buddy bench” story could have been written about a number of our students. YOU lead by example each and everyday, and that is not a responsibility to be taken lightly. Thank you for your leadership and your attention to #whatmatters at CSD. Your students are beyond blessed to call you teacher.
Juli, Marianne, and Leslie
Kids don’t have to be lonely at recess anymore thanks to this little boy and his ‘buddy bench
It’s been three years now since 10-year-old Christian Bucks thought his family was moving to Germany for his dad’s job and his mom showed him brochures about his potential new schools.
He would be the new kid there. The one without anyone to play with in the schoolyard. He was just in first grade then, but he knew what loneliness on the playground looked like. He’d seen it at his own elementary school in York, Pa.
But one German school he and his mom looked at had a solution for this. It was called the buddy bench, and if a child was sitting on it alone, it was a signal to the other kids to ask him or her to play.
Christian’s family never did move to Germany, but the little boy is credited with introducing buddy benches to America.
He brought the idea to his principal, Matthew Miller, and the two immediately set out to install a buddy bench at Roundtown Elementary.
Their project was covered by the local newspaper and went viral. Since then, the two have been featured in national news and gave a joint TedTalk in February 2014. Christian has been invited to schools as far away as Los Angeles and Honolulu to help them unveil their own buddy benches. There are an estimated 2,000 schools with benches across the United States now and in about a dozen other countries, Miller said.
“I didn’t like to see kids lonely at recess when everyone is just playing with their friends,” Christian said in a phone interview.
Christian’s mom, Alyson Bucks, said her son had always been empathetic. “He’s always looking out for the person who might need a little help,” she said.
For a kid with no one to play with, there may be no lonelier place than the school playground. And kids with an established group of friends may not think to seek out those who feel excluded.
Loneliness among young children is very common. One 2004 study in London found 80 percent of the kids between 8 and 10 years who were interviewed described being lonely at some point at school.
And it’s also common for children to go off by themselves when they’re feeling sad, and what they really need is for someone to notice. The benches give children a safe, nonjudgmental place to retreat. Once a child is asked off the bench to come play, the hope is that they’ll have the confidence to go play with their new friends again the next day.
Emails poured in from all over the country when Christian’s buddy bench story was picked up by the “Today Show” and the Huffington Post in late 2013.
One second-grader from Los Angeles wrote to Miller, “I have had a hard time making friends on the playground so I am going to use a buddy bench at our school.” Like Christian, he met with his principal and his school installed one. Christian and his mom flew across the country for its unveiling.
Only a week or so after Christian’s buddy bench story went viral, the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., happened.
As the principal of an elementary school, Miller was devastated. The buddy bench, and the inspiration it spurred, was a timely uplift.
“It was one little boy’s idea, and it really resonated with people,” Miller said. “It gave me hope at a time when I was feeling really down and out after what happened. And here comes Christian with this idea, and I thought, ‘We’re going to be okay.’ ”
In fact, in February 2014, Christian and Miller visited Newtown where Christian was awarded the Charlotte Bacon Act of Kindness Award, named after one of the little girls who was killed.
There are still new buddy benches popping up on school playgrounds around the globe.
Week At A Glance
Monday, October 17th:
Carr to Huntersville Oaks
Tuesday, October 18th:
K-7 Lottery Open House 9:15 a.m. and 6:30 p.m.
PLP MS Math/Stem Observations 12:00-3:00
Wednesday, October 19th:
4th Grade Reed Gold Mine
K-7 Staff Meeting – Team Meetings
Thursday, October 20th:
Westbrook/Sharp to Olde Knox Commons
Love and Logic Parent Workshop at 7:30 p.m.
Friday, October 21st:
Oct 24th – ASE Session 2 Begins
Oct 24th – Report Cards due to Admin
Oct 27th – Love and Logic Parent Workshop – 7:30 at K-7
Oct 27th – 2nd Grade to Children’s Theater
Oct 27th – 3rd Grade Schiele Museum Field Trip
Oct 28th – Elementary Parade of Fiction
Oct 31st – No School; Teacher Workday
Nov 1st – No School; Teacher Workday
Nov 2nd – K-7 Staff Meeting – Accreditation Info
Nov 3rd – Elementary Day of Dead Celebration (Spanish)
Nov 3rd – K-7 Lottery Open House
Nov 3rd – Love and Logic Parent Workshop – 7:30 at K-7
Nov 4th – Elementary Spirit Day
Nov 4th – Kindergarten Aw Shucks Farm Field Trip
Nov 4th – 7th Grade Africa Day
Nov 8th – Love and Logic Parent Workshop – 8:45 in 6th Grade Art Room
Nov 13th – K-7 Lottery Open House 9:15 & 6:30
Nov 14h – 7th Grade Africa Day
Nov 11th – NO SCHOOL – Veteran’s Day Holiday
Nov 15th – Love and Logic Parent Workshop – 8:45 in 6th Grade Art Room
Nov 15th – K-8 Cyberbullying Parent Workshop – 7:00 in MS Black Box
Nov 16th – K-7 Staff Meeting
Nov 17th – MS/HS Band Concert
Nov 18th – 6th Grade Greek Day
Nov 21st – Davidson Walking Tour – ½ of 2nd Grade
Nov 22nd – Davidson Walking Tour – ½ of 2nd Grade
Nov 22nd – Love and Logic Parent Workshop – 8:45 in 6th Grade Art Room
Nov 23rd – Nov 25th – NO SCHOOL; Thanksgiving Holiday
Nov 29th – Love and Logic Parent Workshop – 8:45 in 6th Grade Art Room
Dec 1st -3rd – Christmas in Davidson
Dec 16th – 2nd Grade Art Gallery
Dec 16th – 3rd Grade Charlotte History Performance
Dec 19th – Jan 2nd – Winter Break
Jan 3rd – Classes Resume
Teaching Tips with Marianne
I vividly remember sitting in my classroom with my teaching coach, ready to begin my second year of teaching. We were strategizing my vision for the classroom and for my students. Over the past year, the school where I worked had grown increasingly obsessed with test scores, but the more I considered my students and their needs, the less test scores motivated me.
“Lauren, what do your students need?” my coach asked me.
I paused. They need . . . empathy, I thought before saying it out loud. Shortly after, I had constructed my entire classroom around the concept.
That year, empathy became a central component of my classroom instruction. Given that I taught history, empathy naturally lent itself to discussions of varying perspectives about and intentions of history’s key players. The deeper our discussions went, though, the more convinced I became that empathy needed to be a central piece in every school setting.
3 Benefits of Empathy in Education
Empathyed.org quotes Tyler Colasante by defining empathy “as ‘the intrapersonal realization of another’s plight that illuminates the potential consequences of one’s own actions on the lives of others’ (as cited in Hollingsworth, 2003, p.146).” As educators, incorporating empathy into instruction can have positive results for your immediate classroom, as well as for the community outside of the school building. Here’s why:
1. Empathy builds positive classroom culture.
With the diversity of students entering classrooms each day, paralleled by an increase in globalization, it’s more necessary than ever for teachers to actively construct a positive classroom culture. In his article “Developing Empathy in the Classroom,” Bob Sornson asserts: “Empathy is the heart of a great classroom culture.” Through empathy, he explains, students learn to understand each other, which helps them to build friendships based on positive relationships of trust. Taking the time to demonstrate empathy can also develop student-teacher relationships, as described by Ernest Mendes in “What Empathy Can Do.” On a more academic note, school programs that intentionally incorporate empathy into curriculum have also seen better test results, as described by John Converse Townsend in Forbes Magazine.
2. Empathy strengthens community.
Given that the definition of empathy involves understanding another’s feelings without having experience, empathy sets students up to deepen relationships with their current classmates and people that they know outside of school. In our increasingly globalized world, these people may be coming from different cultures and different socioeconomic backgrounds than before, thereby necessitating better developed empathy skills. Michaela W. Colombo writes in her article “Reflections From Teachers of Culturally Diverse Children” (PDF) that “approximately 40 percent of children in the U.S. public schools are from culturally diverse backgrounds (NCES 2003).”
As children learn empathy skills by communicating cross-culturally with their classmates, those skills will transfer to their lives in their community. The deeper relationships that result from strong empathy skills have the potential to strengthen a community and build trust. The effects of community extend far beyond the four walls of your classroom.
3. Empathy prepares your students to be leaders in their community.
Leaders must understand the people that they lead and be able to show that they care. Leadership articles emphasize human development as an essential leadership quality. A study conducted by the Center for Creative Leadership (PDF) found that “empathy is positively related to job performance” (Gentry, Weber, & Sadri, p.3). Jon Kolko describes in theHarvard Business Review how empathy is the key to a successful product. Our students must be able to empathize with those whom they lead in order to make them feel valued. This validation will strengthen trust between the leader and followers. As teachers, we must equip our students to be the future leaders of our communities and beyond.
Resources for Teaching Empathy
So now what? You’re convinced that empathy is important to integrate in your curriculum, but where do you start?
Fortunately, other educators have wondered the same thing, and many already provide lesson plans and ideas for how to incorporate and increase empathy in the classroom. Here are a few:
- Miranda McKearney and Sarah Mears suggest incorporating reading in their article “Lost for words? How reading can teach children empathy.”
- Empathyed.org offers lesson plans centered around empathy.
- Ashoka lists different strategies to incorporate empathy across different educational contexts, as well as a toolkit for increasing empathy within schools (PDF).
- Dr. Karyn Gordon provides some practical tips in TEACH Magazine‘s article “Dr. Karyn Gordon: Creating Empathy and Gratitude in the Classroom.”
- Teaching Tolerance describes a variety of strategies for helping to build a positive classroom culture that can include empathy.
Do you teach empathy in your classroom? Please tell us about your experiences in the comments section below.
Below is a book list with 44 books that teach empathy: