Thursday, February 6, 2014

8 Ways to Incorporate Empathy into Your Teaching

I read a blog post by Matt Renwick on how Empathy is the Most Critical Skill for Educators to be Highly Effective in Teaching Children.  I thought it was an excellent post.  It helped me to really think about the question of how we can really know what our students are going through.  The post also has really made me think about empathy as a skill that can be practiced and increased.   It also made me think about how I need to be diligent and work at the "Empathy Skills".  I need to take time out from my regular routine and put myself in the students world.  So I made this small list of items that I need to continue working on to help my EMPATHY SKILLS.  

1.  Shadow a Student for a Day 
This is the ultimate empathy skill builder.  This actually puts you in your students shoes for a day.  I did it last year and it was a fabulous experience that I believe I need to repeat yearly.  I changed my perspective on homework, in class movement, lecture, school furniture and more.  If you get a chance, this will change the way you look at your students.  I want to do this again this year.  Summary of my day shadowing a student in a blog post

2.  Questionnaire (Try Google Forms)
Google Forms are so easy to use. The feedback is immediate and flexible.  Overview of Google Forms  It can be anonymous or not.  Ask your students to give you honest feedback on somethings in your class like... How much time they are spending on homework.  Or you could ask about their engagement level in class.  This will give some direct feedback for where your students are in your class.  I have done this recently and it changes your perspective.  It  I make a google form and then change the name using  to give it to my students See an easy video on using tinyurl with your students  See the google form questionnaire that I gave recently.

3.  Listen to the Goals Your Students Have
Give your students a chance to tell you their goals for your course.  Discuss things like homework completion, preparation for tests, class participation, and what they do when they are at an impasse with homework.     Click here to see the blog post on this    Feel free to modify this goals worksheet for your own use.

4.   Do the Homework
This seems too obvious. Take the time and do the homework as you ask them to do the homework.  With all the work shown.  This is an activity that will really help us experience what our students are experiencing.   I know that we can't always do this because it would take too much time.  Give it a try every so often.

5. Think About (Pray for ) EACH Student
This one sounds easy, but is actually difficult.  Go through your class roster, one by one, and think about each student.  Think about them as a person outside your class.  Think of them as a student inside your class. Think of their strengths and weaknesses.

6.  Call Home Early
Parents/Guardians insight is invaluable.  A quick call home early in the year or semester helps us and parents open the communication pipeline.  Also, the question "Could you give me a couple of ideas of how your child best learns?"  or  "What makes your child tick?"   or  " What are some strengths and weaknesses that your child has?"  A call home before your student actually needs a call home is the best.

7.  Look at the Records
Look at IEPs, 504s, Nurses reports, standardized tests, etc.   This seems obvious but it is our job.

8.  Find Activities that your Students are Involved In
Sports, Drama, Video Games, Church, Clubs, Collections, Music, Hobbies, etc... Go to a school activity that involves some of your students.  You will immediately get a different perspective of your student.  It is the same thing as when a student sees you in the grocery store and is so amazed that you have a life outside of school.  Anyway, it is a lot of fun to see students in their element.

Maybe you have some ideas as well?  Please share in the comments.


Anonymous said...

I enjoy teaching at a boarding school because I am easily able to get to know my students outside of the classroom. We interact over dinner, and I get to see their extra-curricular talents because I live on campus where the events occur. Then, I work with them during evening study hall at least once a week. It's definitely a lifestyle, not a job, but I feel it makes me a more empathetic teacher to know my students so well outside the classroom.

Mark Nelson said...

My first, second, and third thoughts are WOW! What a wonderful idea to put yourself in the world of your students by shadowing. Being a student myself, I salute you for taking the time to see life from our side of the desk. Being a non-traditional student, I can tell you it is not easy. Also, your comments about questionnaires are rather timely as Dr. Strange, my EMD310 Professor, uses Google Forms to gain feedback about us. In yesterday’s class he shared some of the data and explained some of the ways he uses it. He feels it is one of his most powerful tools and will be teaching us how to use Google Forms later this semester. Finally, while I have only commented on these two, the depth of thought you put into each topic is evident. Honestly, Dave, reading each I can sense the caring and compassion you have for your students. You, sir, are the type of teacher who inspires me to want to teach. Thanks for all you do.

Dave Sladkey said...

Eating meals together! That is terrific. You get a lot better picture of your students than I ever could. It sounds like you see your students in a variety of settings to help you know them and empathize with. I like your comment on 'it's not a job, its a lifestyle'

Dave Sladkey said...

Thanks for the kind words. Sometimes I feel a little overwhelmed by trying to connect with 100-120 each year. I keep telling myself that you can't reach every student. But the other part of me says that I have to try. I guess it comes down to trying something each year to improve myself as a teacher. It sounds like you have the desire to help students. I'd encourage you to let that passion guide you as you enter teaching. I'm excited by your journey. Please keep us all up to date. Sounds like your teacher is really engaging!

Ramsey Willis said...

Hi Dave,

My name is Ramsey Willis and I am in EDM 510 at the University of South Alabama. I will be teaching math next year as well, hopefully in a high school setting but definitely secondary. Because of this I will be visiting and commenting often on your postings and from what I can see now, it looks like I will have a lot to say. The postings that I have seen have been excellent. Would you mind if I added you to my Personal Learning Network? This is just a network of people to contact to discuss different situations that may occur in my career. You seem like a man that may be able to answer some questions.

I truly enjoyed reading your posting on "8 Ways to Incorporate Empathy into Your Teaching" for one main reason. This post shows how to get involved with your students and show them that you care about them. I particularly liked your section on getting the parents involved by calling early. By doing this, you can quickly determine which parents will truly be involved with their child's education. I also believe that you should call often. Not to report behavioral or academic issues only, but just to give praise for the students to the parents. The students will appreciate it and you will have a better rapport with the students because of it. Very good post!

I will be summarizing my comments of your blog on March 4, 2014 at, my blog. You may also visit the EDM 510 Class Blog at for more insight into what we are doing.

Dave Sladkey said...

Thanks for your comment. I wish I could say that I call home early for all my students. I don't. Right now, I'm just doing it for my lower level classes. I do think it sets the tone for an excellent triangle relationship (parent, student, teacher). I look forward to hearing more about your class and your journey. Blessings to you,

Ramsey Willis said...

Thanks for your comment Dave. I know calling home early to all of your students can be difficult but it seems like you are on the right track. I am also glad that you see the value in a triangle relationship. It makes teaching students much easier when all parties involved know what to expect from one another. Looking forward to see what you will say next.

Have a blessed week!

Ramsey Willis

Holly Shaw said...

My name is Holly Shaw and I am an EDM 310 student at the University of South Alabama. Throughout my day I always catch myself saying "Does this teacher think his class is the only one that matters?”. Unfortunately I do believe there are some teachers who genuinely believe their class is most important. I hope to never be a teacher who is like this. I love the concept of student shadowing you have presented here. If more teachers would take the time like you did, I believe it would benefit students all over tremendously. I also like the idea of getting direct feedback from my students. I know as human beings we are NOT perfect and any feedback would be extremely helpful. Overall this post has given me so many great ideas for when I have a classroom and has me so excited. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences! I will be sure to keep them in mind.