Tag Archives: Empathy

Cultivating Empathy in Schools

There has been a lot written about the importance of empathy within schools. As an educator, being able to relate and connect with our students is so important because it allows the classroom to become a community; a place where people feel safe and valued. In a classroom or a school which is centred around empathy, students are unafraid to express themselves and try out new things.

empathy2In a 10-part journal series a school Principal, Michelle Hughes, from New York writes about her experiences in cultivating empathy within her students, teachers, and staff. Hughes speaks about the importance of not only cultivating empathy with the students, but with teachers. Here is an excerpt from the first journal entry:

Schools are a microcosm of the universal human experience.  I could choose (and much as I hate to admit it, there are times I wish I had it in me) to disregard the personal lives of staff and make the work of school my only priority.  But that approach would be contrary to the central ethos of the school, and it would no doubt relegate the cultivation of empathy and holistic teaching practice to the fringes of the classroom experience. To teach the whole child, the whole teacher needs to be considered.

 To read the journal entries click on the link below:



The Triple Focus

I (Pooja) came across a new book I am interested in reading , so I thought I’d share it with our blog community. The new book by Daniel Goleman and Peter Senge is entitled The Triple Focus: A New Approach to Education (2014) and makes a case that education should focus on three things:

  1. Self-awareness
  2. Empathy
  3. Understanding our relationship with the larger world


This focus on self, other, and world in the classroom is something I am particularly interested in as I feel it is increasingingly necessary in today’s classrooms. Daniel Goleman explains:

 These skill sets interact very naturally. We feel that this complete inner tool kit should be a part of every child’s learning as the world they are growing into becomes more distracted, relationships more besieged, and everything more interconnected and complex.


Below is an excerpt from the new book:

Empathy and Academic Success

The key to compassion is being predisposed to help — and that can be learned.

There is an active school movement in character education and teaching ethics. But I don’t think it’s enough to have children just learn about ethical virtuosity, because we need to embody our ethical beliefs by acting on them. This begins with empathy.

There are three main kinds of empathy, each involving distinct sets of brain circuits. The first is cognitive empathy: understanding how other people see the world and how they think about it, and understanding their perspectives and mental models. This lets us put what we have to say in ways the other person will best understand.

The second is emotional empathy, a brain-to-brain linkage that gives us an instant inner sense of how the other person feels — sensing their emotions from moment to moment. This allows “chemistry” in our connections with people.

Those two are very important of course; they’re key to getting along with other people, but they’re not necessarily sufficient for caring. The third is called, technically,empathic concern — which naturally leads to empathic action.Unlike the other two kinds of empathy, this variety is based in the ancient mammalian circuitry for caring and for parenting, and it nurtures those qualities.

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