professornana (professornana) wrote,

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E is for Empathy

I must admit this: I had a mini-meltdown today. I somehow screwed up preparations for a medical test I was scheduled to have and after driving 50 miles to the appointment site, was informed I would need to reschedule. It was my own fault. I managed to keep calm until I got back into the car to call my BH to say I was heading home earlier than I had anticipated. Then, I threw myself a nice pity party. After that, I pulled myself together, drove to the restaurant where BH and I had Sunday lunch because (yay me!) I had left my credit card there. After 15 minutes I was told that the person who had the key to where the cards were kept was not working. Could I call and come back later. Eventually, the manager was contacted via phone and I have the card back in the wallet. I came home, crawled onto the bed, and slept.

I am not writing about this for sympathy (though feel free to feel as sorry for myself as I did). I am writing about this to remind myself about empathy: putting myself in the shoes of someone else. Remembering that we all make mistakes (made two big ones myself that caused all of this today) and need someone to understand that (that is the job of my BH, bless him). How do we, then, develop empathy in our students? I think books can play a key role (no surprise there, right?). Readers can connect empathetically with characters in books. I am listening to BREADCRUMBS by Anne Ursu right now. I read the book a while ago and am truly loving having Hazel back in my mind as she sets out to find her friend Jack lost to the Ice Queen. I know how Hazel feels when she is called names; I know how she feels when she thinks she has lost her best friend. I connect to her and to the book.

Paul Hankins and I were talking about the "f" words in books: filling, falling, feeling. (and Paul is one of the folks who just gets it, people. If you are not reading his posts, head over to Books can make me FEEL what is happening to the characters. John Green does this in THE FAULT IN OUR STARS, Applegate in THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN, Palacios in WONDER, and Stead in LAIR AND SPY to name a few. Think of what our kids might miss if we were so tied up in close reading and exemplar texts and nonfiction that we missed the chance to help students develop empathy. Empathy is not a skill listed in CCSS, friends. But if we want to have our kids develop into the terrific adults that CAN become, we need to make sure we do not lose sight of the affective domain. A recent study about intrapersonal and interpersonal skills and their importance along with the cognitive skills caught my eye (National Research Council, DC) and made me relieved that some folks know we teach people and not just content. And because we are teaching people, we need to make sure we connect them to people in books with which they can identify. I read children's and YA books because I connect more with those characters than the ones in adult books. I find Lina in BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY more interesting and more like me and people I know than the people who populate FIFTY SHADES OF GRAY.

Today's post is brought to you by the letter "E" for empathy.
Tags: books, empathy, reading ccss
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