Do you know what the word empathy means?
Empathy is a word that when defined pertains to an individual’s ability to understand and share the feelings of another emotionally. It’s being able to see things from other people’s perspectives and wearing their shoes.
And it’s often mixed up with sympathy. Sympathy is to understand what someone feels whereas empathy goes beyond that. Empathy is projecting yourself to the point where you try to actually feel what the other person is feeling.
So all in all, it is essentially putting yourself in someone else’s place and understanding and feeling what they must be feeling. But why is empathy important in the classroom?
Why is empathy important in the classroom?
Imagine walking into a classroom on the first day of school, and you’re on a rollercoaster ride of emotions; worry, nervousness, fear, anxiousness, excitement—and not knowing how to express any of it.
As a teacher who was once a student, you’re surely familiar with this state of uncertainty.
With that in mind, it is important for teachers to be able to empathize with all students and for them to learn how to empathize with other students as well.
The ability to empathize is paramount in building relationships with students and driving that connection that can help them feel more confident and comfortable enough to express themselves within the classroom.
By showing empathy in the classroom—including verbal cues like “How are you holding up in class” or “I can see that you’re having a hard time with this lesson, is there a way I can help?” and any physical cues like a quick smile or a thumbs up, or a pat in the back from a teacher can encourage students to share their feelings and engage more deeply in the learning experiences shared in class.
5 Reasons Why Empathy Is Important In The Classroom
1.) It makes all students feel safe and welcome
It’s important for you as a teacher to know that it is your responsibility to ensure that you are creating a warm and welcoming learning environment where all students feel safe.
By doing so, students will more likely participate in class discussions, ask questions, share their opinions, or even just ask for help when they need it.
If the students do not feel comfortable coming to you bringing about their concerns or asking questions whenever they don’t understand something because they are not fully trusting you or the way you treat them, then this can greatly impact your teaching abilities as well as your relationship with your class.
So as a teacher in your best effort, try to foster an empathetic classroom so that students in return will forge a close bond with you which will ultimately lead you to be the best teacher you can be in the classroom.
2.)It makes students feel heard
Empathy is an important skill for teachers to have because it helps us understand the needs of our students and where they are coming from.
For example, if you are a teacher who empathizes with your students by sharing similar life experiences, you may be able to help your students in a way that other teachers cannot. It’s about going that extra mile to further understand them which will, later on, benefit both you and your students.
Empathy can also be taught, and it’s a great idea to teach students how to be empathetic as well. Modeling empathy and encouraging students to practice it among themselves will help them learn how important it is in everyday life and in the classroom as well.
Teaching this skill will help all students feel heard at school regardless of whether or not they have had an experience similar to theirs because it makes them aware of different perspectives than their own.
3.) Empathy helps establish care, trust, and respect in the classroom culture
Empathy is a feeling of understanding and compassion, and when there’s understanding and compassion in the classroom it’ll help promote a culture of caring, trust, and respect.
As empathy will help us listen better and understand others’ feelings more clearly, we’ll also know how to appropriately respond in situations where students might feel upset or frustrated in the classroom.
And if students see you practicing empathy in the classroom every day with them through your actions and words, they’ll instantly feel safer when expressing their thoughts and emotions as soon as they enter your room.
So every now and then, try to check in on your students. Allow them to share their stories and mindfully listen to what they have to say.
Keep this going and model it to your students, and watch how your simple act of empathy helps them realize what it is and how they can practice it not just in the classroom but outside as well.
If empathy is practiced very well in the classroom, students will feel safe enough to let down their guards (which is often a necessary step in learning), and they will begin to see each other’s perspectives more clearly which will eventually make them open-minded learners overall!
4.) It encourages higher-level thinking and discussion
Empathy plays a key role in helping students understand one another’s opinions, which can lead the class into a more meaningful discussion.
The more students understand their classmates’ perspectives, the better equipped they will be in discussing how they can approach a problem differently. When students bring up issues, they can collaborate and combine each other’s ideas to form a conclusion or solution to tackle that problem specifically.
By practicing empathy students will understand why they might disagree or why they might think that something is silly or ridiculous, as a teacher you can help them consider their own words from another’s perspective without feeling attacked themselves.
5.) Empathy eliminates barriers
Empathy is a great power tool for communication because it helps us understand what one another is feeling and it eliminates any barriers when trying to connect with one another.
A great example of this is bullying in the classroom, if you are teaching lessons about bullying, students who are being bullied themselves can have a hard time understanding and relating when you describe in class what it actually feels like.
If you display empathy for them by sharing your own experiences of being bullied and how you felt through it, they may feel more comfortable speaking up about their own experiences of the said matter.
Learning how to practice empathy, will allow us to see things from someone else’s point of view and see another person as a human being, which will help us better find solutions to problems affecting other people or groups within the school and classroom.
Now that we’ve reached the end,
It’s time to normalize the idea that teachers can be kind to their students and that teachers can treat them with respect and empathy because that doesn’t mean that classroom management is not present. You can build a strong relationship and drive a connection with them without approaching them sternly and acting authoritatively.
Kids are just people like us, they’re humans with genuine feelings and thoughts. They also deserve respect and empathy just as how teachers would expect the same from them.
When teachers educate with empathy in the classroom it shows students that they care about them and their feelings. In the long run, students will mirror these actions and before they know it, they’re already practicing empathy on their own.
This will give them a sense of belonging and it also lets them know that they’re not alone in their experiences—making them feel that they’re safe, welcomed, and understood. This will ultimately help them effectively build trust in teachers and give them confidence as learners.