One of the most important personal and professional connections you make in life come from shared understanding. Shared understanding of each other. Shared understanding of our feelings and experiences.
For this reason, we chose EMPATHY to be the 21st Century skill our students would focus on during our second unit. They would incorporate this theme into their inquiry projects, as well as other relevant curriculum.
Now some of you may be thinking that empathy seems to be more of an emotional ability, and not necessarily a 21st century skill.
Our students, however, would argue that empathy IS a SKILL that is valuable, or even essential, in many life situations, including, but not limited to:
-Business meetings, transactions, or other professional interactions
-Networking and other professional correspondence
-Helping your friends and loved ones
-Arguing in support of legislation
-Collaborating with a team or committee to accomplish shared goals
We would all also argue that empathy is a skill that can be learned and developed. It may come more naturally to some, but it is an ability that you can improve upon constantly throughout life. Empathy is something that you can put effort into. Empathy is something you must SHOW with your actions and not just believe in it.
Our students have successfully connected empathy to numerous topics including American history, climate change, charities and fundraising, animal care and treatment, fiction writing, photography, government, traveling, and culture.
By encouraging our students to learn and act with empathy at the forefront, they will see that this skill actually can EMPOWER them to become stronger and more effective leaders, no matter where the future takes them.
Below are just some of the ways our students would describe empathy, what it means to them, and why it is so important.
“For me, empathy means understanding and feeling the same emotions as another person. Empathy is important because it helps you truly connect with others. If you show empathy to other people, they will return empathy back to you. If everyone had and showed empathy, everyone would be much more positive towards each other. Empathy can help solve misunderstandings and arguments which will help in life in general, now and in the future.” – S.S.
“My definition of empathy is when you are understanding, kind, helpful, and you try to connect to someone. I like to think of empathy as an umbrella on a stormy day. You could be understanding and kind by sharing that umbrella with someone, or you could keep it to yourself. Empathy is sharing a feeling with someone else, and connecting with them on a deeper level. Empathy is thinking less about yourself, and more about others. It is sharing a good or bad emotion with someone, and coming out of it together.” – N. S.
“Practicing empathy is something that should come before you engage in certain situations though. We should know how to handle ourselves before we share solutions with others. Some ways you can practice empathy might be to first think of how you would feel to be in the other person’s situation, learn the difference between empathy and sympathy, and also learn to extract your ego from the situation. The more you practice these, the sooner you’ll feel comfortable using empathy in different situations.” – B. R.
“Empathy is when you can share other people’s feelings and share an understanding of each other. It is actually very important and a necessary skill to have to live in a society. Empathy to me means that we can build a stronger bond with people by sharing a similar experience. This experience can also be good or bad. It doesn’t always have to be a bad situation.“ – Z. K.