Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Let people live in your heart: teaching caring and empathy

Caring is one of the attributes of the IB Learner Profile.  Students are expected to "show empathy, compassion and respect towards the needs and feelings of others.  They have a personal commitment to service, and to act and make a positive difference to the lives of others and to the environment."

Empathy is one of the attitudes that is an essential element of the PYP programme.  It is defined in Making the PYP Happen as "imagining themselves in another's situation in order to undestand his or her reasoning and emotions, so as to be open-minded and reflective about the perspectives of others."

Teaching young children to be truly caring and empathatic is not an easy task.  How can teachers do this?

I came across the documentary series Children Full of Life through the blog of a colleague.  Dave was writing about empathy and about cyberbullying and linked through to this remarkable series of videos, filmed over a year in a Grade 4 class just outside Tokyo.  Throughout the year their teacher, Mr Kanamori, deals with issues of trust, respect and friendship.  His motto is, "Let people live in your heart".

Part 2 of the documentary deals with bullying.

In Part 3 of the documentary you see students standing up for a member of their class - against a decision that the teacher has made.  You can see how students have built a sense of empathy and personal responsibility.  At the end one of the students says, "You come to school to be happy, everyone must be happy.  If one person is unhappy, everyone will be unhappy."

Parts 4 and 5 deal with how the students react to the deaths of the fathers of two of their classmates and how they support the students through these difficult times.

As a teacher I feel I have learned a lot from watching these videos.  Thanks to Dave for linking to them on his blog.

Photo Credit:  Have a Heart by Pink Sherbert Photography Attribution 

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