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  1. #1

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    How do you teach kids empathy?

    This is a big concern I have, witnessing, as a teacher, the students who just don't care. They don't care about others or anything, or even themselves. How do you reach out to this children? How do we teach children of the up and coming generation, who has been spoiled by lack of human interaction due to all the video games, movies, tv, etc., to care about other people? (don't get me wrong I love my video games as much as the next person but I hear so many kids talking about going home and playing video games instead of playing with others)

    I know it breaks my heart when I have students tell me they just don't care, whether it be about grades, a call home or even them getting in trouble. It's so hard, I've thought so long and hard how I could help change this. I've been told by more veteran teachers that I can't help every student, but I still can't help but feel for these kids.

    So the main idea of the post is for discussion. Share your thoughts and ideas. Obviously no kid bashing because kids are the future (as scary as that seems sometimes, but don't worry I'm doing my best to help teach them well).

    So yeah, onto discussion! And I would also love to hear from any of you teens as to what has been effective on you to teach you empathy.

    Thanks guys!
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  2. #2

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    Re: How do you teach kids empathy?

    Community service can work wonders. What if you did some role playing experiment, like without telling them, favor certain students during the day based on some random criteria, and then have a class discussion about how that made them feel. Did it make the left-out kids angry, sad? Did it make the favored kids feel good, uncomfortable, did they feel the injustice?

    I had my students do a quick write on Martin Luther King the other day. The premise was that MLK won the Nobel Peace Prize- the prize money today is about $1,000,000. What would you do with the money to help world peace? So many kids wrote about buying PSPs and iPods and giving the money to their families (but I guess that is at least something). I was so disappointed with their inability to think of others.
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  3. #3

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    Re: How do you teach kids empathy?

    I think that human interaction is an important part of the equation but then again, if they are interacting primarily with others who also lack the ability to show empathy, I suppose it could make the problem worse, rather than better.

    Sometimes I think things like this can only be learned by example and there are unfortunately fewer examples than there once were. It certainly isn't confined to young people either. There are plenty of adults who seem to lack empathy. This would seem to be a problem that has grown over a long period of time and I'm not sure there are any easy solutions.

    But sometimes, even one person can make a difference. That there are teachers like you, gives one hope.
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    Re: How do you teach kids empathy?

    I agree that community service is a great idea. You can't have empathy if you don't have a good grasp of what it like for someone less fortunate than yourself.
    "How old would you be if you didn't know how old you are?"
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    Re: How do you teach kids empathy?

    Like Susie said, I think Community service of some sort, I'm not sure of the ages of students you have, but Volunteering can do wonders for children and the empathy you are trying to encourage.

    When I was 11 I started volunteering at a nursing home, at 12 I added a couple volunteer shifts at a hospital, I was volunteering 2-4 days a week, and it really made a huge impact on who I am today. I learned so much, things that I never would have just around my home or school.

    If you have little ones you could maybe visit a nursing home, or 'adopt' a cause as a class. Perhaps send care packages to the armed forces (idea came from another thread) or send things to a shelter for children.

    if you have older kids, High school/ jr High, perhaps they could actualy get involved in the community...many nursing homes, the local humane society probably has volunteer opertunities....

    Perhaps you and your class could help local seniors with their yards, or other needs....

    Maybe you could get a list of items that a local shelter needs, and take the kids shopping...having them select the items, and deliver them...

    just some thoughts.

    hope they give you some inspiration

    BTW, My 12 yr old daughter volunteers as well, I think it's very important for every child to do something 'outside of themselves' to help some aspect of the world.
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  6. #6

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    Re: How do you teach kids empathy?

    Quote Originally Posted by PrncssZ View Post

    I know it breaks my heart when I have students tell me they just don't care, whether it be about grades, a call home or even them getting in trouble. It's so hard, I've thought so long and hard how I could help change this. I've been told by more veteran teachers that I can't help every student, but I still can't help but feel for these kids.
    Are you saying that your kids just don't care about others or things like grades? Because I don't personally feel you can change opinions about grades and troublemaking.

    If it's in regards to others, Community service is good. "Adopting" a family who has nothing. Ask the scenario, if you had a thousand dollars and you had to use it to help someone else (think Oprah) who would you pick? Why? I first learned about blood diamonds in 6th grade. No graphic pictures were shown but it was incredibly enlightening, but I don't know your school policies regarding this, or even what age you teach. According to emerging gender research, girls will respond to scenarios, followed by How would that make you feel? More so than boys but you could always try it. Give a real life discription of someone who is homeless, or living in another country. If you could include India's caste system into a lesson, or Buddha's teaching, how he changed once he saw poverty etc.

    And while it may be that you can't help every student, you can try. Good luck!

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    Re: How do you teach kids empathy?

    Growing up we (my brother, sister, and I) were always involved in group programs. Things like scouts, 4H, church and I think that along with what I learned from imitating my parents is how I learned empathy. I agree with all that are saying community service is a good way to teach it, it really is! But there is no reason it shouldn't happen no matter where they are. Even in the classroom, among peers, etc.

    Teaching it would depend on the age of child you are talking about in your class. If they are old enough, community service is a good choice. In my school I got to work at the local elementary school. I had an awesome time and learned a lot since I was working with developmentally challenged students. If the kids are younger social stories are awesome for teaching empathy as well as many other things!

    For me and my own children, teaching empathy is a very big challenge. Both my sons are autistic and often react inappropriately in certain situations. Like if someone is crying, they will laugh. Not because they are being mean but because they totally don't understand. I finally made a huge break though with my youngest (who just turned 5 last month). I used the old "fake it till you make it" approach with him. I'd remind him to be polite, say sorry, etc. and he finally picked it up and now understands better how to handle those situations.

    Anyway, I'm totally rambling on now. I wish you luck in reaching those students who are acting like they don't care. I'm sure deep down they do care. Maybe they just need someone or something to bring it out of them.

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    Re: How do you teach kids empathy?

    Thank you all so much for all of your suggestions. I greatly appreciate everything. I agree community service is a great idea. I'm considering even trying to get the students to volunteer in a younger grade classroom and help the teacher or students with something. (I teach elementary 5th grade).

    Quote Originally Posted by Motorboat Cruiser View Post
    But sometimes, even one person can make a difference. That there are teachers like you, gives one hope.

    I appreciate this so much. Because when I decided, when I was very young, to become a teacher I became deteremined to be that one teacher that made a huge difference. I want to be the teacher that when students are asked in college who inspired them as a teacher, I want them to say me. Unfortunately I had no teachers inspire me, that is perhaps why I am so driven to this cause and making a difference.

    Keep the suggestions, ideas and stories flowing. You guys are great!
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    **Donors Choose is a place where teachers post projects for their classes and request materials and/or technology for that project. People then can make donations starting at just $1 to help fund that project. This is a great way to support teachers and their classes!**

  9. #9

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    Re: How do you teach kids empathy?

    You may want to check into Character Counts, character education. There is a whole curricula that is used throughout Arizona schools to help define the terms and teach the kids.

    Teaching empathy also begins at home (not that it happens anymore) but like most positive behaviors, modeling the behavior by parents is a highly effective way to teach kids.

    Problem is, the same moronic parents that tell their kids, "don't steal' but then keep the extra ten dollars of change from the grocery store... Or they tell their kids, "Don't lie" then have their kids screen calls for them and lie and say that mom/dad isn't home....

    Eesh... ON the bright side, there is plenty of job security for those of us in the counseling field..

    Kudos to our MC education professionals!!




  10. #10

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    Re: How do you teach kids empathy?

    My husband and I were just having a conversation about this the other day because we were talking about whose role it is to teach people to be empathetic and giving....the parents , the schoool, the church, other organizations like girl scouts/boy scouts, or even the employer. We think it's all of the above to some extent.

    What age are your students? Depending on the age, you may have to make doing some volunteer work mandatory. But once they do it, hopefully they'll find out how gratifying it is and want to do it more "just because."

    I'm thinking that as a teacher maybe you can do a lifelab/gardening type project that involves growing vegetables and then donating them or salads that the kids make with the vegetables to a local food shelter.

    Or if there's a local homeless shelter, maybe you can have your kids sign up to do one night a month of cooking a meal and doing set up and clean up for it. And get their parents involved too as they'll all benefit from it.


    Another place you could take your students as a class would be a retirement home where they could make cards and sing for the old folks. A teenage gal we know also organized a formal dance for one of our local senior centers and it was a big hit. If you teach teenagers, then chances are pretty good that a lot of them have formal dreses and the guys can probably borrow suits from the men in their lives if they don't own their own.

    There are also lots of ways to go to Mexico and do building projects there , but a lot of them involve churches or Young Life type programs so may be out of the question for your students. But they can probably do something for Habitats for Humans since they'll organize student and employee groups.

    I think there are all kinds of opportunites out there , but kids just need someone to help them get organized and follow through on these activities.

    Good luck!

    (PS Hope I undertood the question you were asking)

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    Re: How do you teach kids empathy?

    Quote Originally Posted by Max Fischer View Post
    You may want to check into Character Counts, character education. There is a whole curricula that is used throughout Arizona schools to help define the terms and teach the kids.
    Thanks for the curricula idea. Do you by chance know where I could find this at? Should I just do a search online?

    Quote Originally Posted by Princess Buttercup View Post
    We think it's all of the above to some extent.

    What age are your students? Depending on the age, you may have to make doing some volunteer work mandatory. But once they do it, hopefully they'll find out how gratifying it is and want to do it more "just because."
    You understood my questions perfectly. I do agree with you and your husband that it takes everyone to teach it to some extent. You need to have good role models everywhere that kids are involved.

    My kids are 9 and 10 years old, so I was really considering having them volunteer to help with younger students in some way. Right now that's the closest to community service I can get.

    Thanks for all the ideas guys! I'm really enjoying this discussion. It's a really important topic.
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    Check out my class's Donors Choose page:
    Wildcat Projects
    **Donors Choose is a place where teachers post projects for their classes and request materials and/or technology for that project. People then can make donations starting at just $1 to help fund that project. This is a great way to support teachers and their classes!**

  12. #12

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    Re: How do you teach kids empathy?

    Quote Originally Posted by Max Fischer View Post

    Teaching empathy also begins at home (not that it happens anymore) but like most positive behaviors, modeling the behavior by parents is a highly effective way to teach kids.

    Problem is, the same moronic parents that tell their kids, "don't steal' but then keep the extra ten dollars of change from the grocery store... Or they tell their kids, "Don't lie" then have their kids screen calls for them and lie and say that mom/dad isn't home....

    Eesh... ON the bright side, there is plenty of job security for those of us in the counseling field..

    Kudos to our MC education professionals!!
    So true....I have so many kids that I know from substitute teaching and from the YMCA whose parents don't teach things like honesty and common courtesy to them. There's so much that we are trying to teach them academically and then we have to try to fit character building in it too.

    I try to read a lot of stories/books to them where the characters go through hard times and I hope that the students will develop empathy for the characters?

  13. #13

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    Re: How do you teach kids empathy?

    All I can suggest right now is have them do fun, afterschool, group projects that will benefit the community.

  14. #14

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    Re: How do you teach kids empathy?

    Quote Originally Posted by PrncssZ View Post
    My kids are 9 and 10 years old, so I was really considering having them volunteer to help with younger students in some way. Right now that's the closest to community service I can get.
    Kindergarten buddies might be an easy way to get started. They can go down once a week and read to their "buddy" or help them with an art project or teach 'em to tie their shoes. Anything that expands them to think of others is great.

    We also had a Character Education program at my old school, but I can't remember what it was called. I'll have to think about it. But each month was a different theme- responsibility, gratitude, cooperation- and each week there was a quote in the bulletin that pertained to the theme. The classes took turns doing a presentation on Fridays at the flag ceremony, too. They would write raps about using good manners and make up cheers and songs. All kinds of wacky stuff.

    John Wooden has a couple of kids' books you could read aloud as well.

    Any activity where you can set your class up to succeed as a team could be effective. I'm currently doing a "race" with my kids, where we are racing to 100 points, kids vs. teacher, instead of table points. I give them points for being good and when I have to wait for them, I give myself points. It's working pretty well. (They get to watch a movie if they win, and I told them they have to wash my car if I win. )
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    Re: How do you teach kids empathy?

    Quote Originally Posted by SusieP. View Post
    John Wooden has a couple of kids' books you could read aloud as well.

    Any activity where you can set your class up to succeed as a team could be effective. I'm currently doing a "race" with my kids, where we are racing to 100 points, kids vs. teacher, instead of table points. I give them points for being good and when I have to wait for them, I give myself points. It's working pretty well. (They get to watch a movie if they win, and I told them they have to wash my car if I win. )

    Thanks so much! OT: THanks for the idea for classroom management. I keep group points but right now they're having trouble staying quiet as tables, so maybe if I try this it would give them more incentive.
    Visit my blog: Shutters & Scribbles

    Check out my class's Donors Choose page:
    Wildcat Projects
    **Donors Choose is a place where teachers post projects for their classes and request materials and/or technology for that project. People then can make donations starting at just $1 to help fund that project. This is a great way to support teachers and their classes!**

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