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30 December 2014 @ 05:54 pm
Empathy  
A recent blog post (http://www.districtadministration.com/article/coaching-tomorrow’s-education-leaders) caught my attention. EQ, emotional quotient, was something researchers talked about almost a decade ago. This renewed interest in the AFFECT is one I am happy to see. However, it seems these days to take a back seat to the COGNITIVE in the minds of the reformists. Educational reformists never seem to speak about the AFFECTIVE side of our field. It is always about being ready in terms of measurable standards. There is little or nothing about the affect, especially about empathy.

You see, this blog post discusses four factors: self awareness, social awareness, self management, and relationship management. My problem is that all of these elements of EQ are discussed as they affect LEADERS. Rather than talking about shared management, teacher autonomy, and community, this is all about being confident and keeping emotions in check (too little is not good but neither is too much; sort of a Goldilocks situation?).

To me, this still smacks of a we and them mentality. Instead, I want to see more of a discussion of an us/we mentality. Building community, building consensus, building trust. How do we do this with our students? Clear communication is key. So is offering choice, allowing the other members of the community to have some role to play in making decisions.

One of the best tools for developing empathy are books. Books allow us to spend time bonding with characters. My friend and colleague Karin Perry talks about her book boyfriends. Katherine and Donalyn talk about becoming immersed and invested in the story. Paul talks about exploring the depths of the characters. I know each of them connects to the characters and shares that empathetic bond. Why else would we all laugh out loud as we read? Or weep? Or rail against an injustice suffered by one of the characters? Why would we CARE about what happens to the fictional characters that people our stories? The answer is EMPATHY.

Books have made me a more empathetic person. Books have offered solace in the face of depression and despair; they have offered escape when the world is too real. Books have lifted me up when I desperately needed it. They have transported me beyond my own troubles and asked me to care about the troubles of others. They are powerful.
 
 
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