We are pleased to share this section of our website with a quarterly focus on a curricular topic. Learn more about our initiatives and consider ideas to strengthen the home|school connection to our learning outcomes.
Nine Competencies for Teaching Empathy
Empathy is the core of everything that makes a school caring, a teacher responsive, and a society civilized. ~ Dr. Michele Borba
This year District 35 parents and community members are invited to join the staff as we read UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World by Michele Borba, Ed.D. as part of our One Book, One District initiative.
Given that today’s youngest generation is experiencing higher rates of bullying, anxiety and mental health issues than previous ones, it is critically important to help this generation understand the feelings and thoughts of others. Empathy is the foundation of a safe, caring, and inclusive learning climate. Students with high levels of empathy display more classroom engagement, higher academic achievement, and better communication skills. Dr. Borba’s book identifies nine habits of empathetic children. Each is suitable for students from kindergarten through high school.
Our work as a district and community is to incorporate the above competencies into our daily practice. Here you will find the ways in which we are supporting this initiative in our schools.
Emotional Literacy. Before students can empathize, they must be able to read emotions. Researchers believe today’s digitally-focused world is reducing students’ abilities to recognize human emotions and jeopardizing their empathetic capacities. Empathy thrives in environments that prioritize face-to-face connections, so District 35 is working to help teachers create classrooms that nurture meaningful interaction and engagement. Our work with David Jakes Designs is helping us to create classroom spaces that allow for the flexibility for each student to see every peer, or in small clusters, enabling students to work closely with one another. Additionally, we continue to discuss our district initiative of Away for the Day. All students are asked to keep cell phones off and in their lockers during school hours. We want students to be focused on learning, discussion, and face-to-face interactions while in school.
Moral Identity. A child’s moral identity, can inspire empathy, shape character, and motivate compassion. A key step to developing a moral identity is helping students define themselves as people who value others. Children are more likely to learn moral identity when adults model, instruct and expect them to care about others. This year District 35 has partnered with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) to provide professional development for staff members to help create and sustain environments that are equitable and welcoming for all members of the school community. Our middle school students will also benefit from development sessions with the ADL facilitators on October 10, 2019.
Perspective Taking. Whether it’s connecting students across the globe through technology, debating an issue from various sides, or seeing the American Revolution from the British point of view, perspective-taking can stretch students’ horizons and lead them to question assumptions. Over the past two years, our Central School staff members have been learning about
Restorative Practices. Restorative Practices help students who’ve hurt or upset their peers consider the impact and develop empathy for those they have hurt. District 35 has worked with author and speaker Carrie Goldman to introduce these ideas and will continue restorative practice work through the 2019-2020 school year.
Self Regulation. Self-regulation allows children to keep their emotions in check and recognize others’ feelings, empathize, and calmly think of how to help. Beginning in October, all students Kindergarten through 8th grade will be receiving six mindfulness lessons lead by Grow Through Mindfulness to help students with strategies to manage their emotions and self-regulate. Staff members have been engaged in professional development on Trauma-Informed Instruction with Dr. Doug Bolton. This work is helping our staff members to reflect on classroom practices, develop a more supportive school environment, and foster new ideas to support our students to manage stress.
As the year progresses the district will offer opportunities for staff and community discussions around UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World, including a visit by Dr. Michele Borba. Mark your calendar for our event with Dr. Borba in Misner at 7:00 p.m. on December 2, 2019!
We look forward to sharing this journey as a community.