We’ve seen a lot of conversations recently centered around the question: “When stressful events happen, what can we do for those around us?” At the same time, many educators in our community have come to us asking: “How can I help my students navigate stressful world events in the classroom?” At Empatico, we keep coming back to the power of practicing empathy when things feel out of our control: empathy towards ourselves, empathy towards others, and empathy towards groups that are different than our own.
Empathy Towards Ourselves
The first step in processing a stressful event, whether it is close to home or on another continent, is to help students gain a sense of agency. Connect students with themselves first, and build their self-awareness, before addressing the larger problem. Try our Just Because I Am… activity, which empowers students to explore their own identity with a writing prompt that challenges others’ assumptions about them. Students will reflect on the “visible” and “invisible” parts of their identity, and how important it is for others to get to know them before making assumptions about them. Finally, students will share about stereotypes they have encountered.
Empathy Towards Our Community
Perspective taking is always an important step when figuring out how to navigate stressful world events or even a conflict within the classroom. Perspective taking enables problem solving and, with our Perspective Taking Through Art activity, your students can participate in a drawing exercise in which they compare different perspectives from a disagreement they have experienced. First, students will identify a previous disagreement that was resolved and reflect on their own perspective of it, as well as the perspective of the other person. Then, students will consider the importance of understanding another person’s thoughts and emotions by using art to compare both perspectives of the disagreement.
Empathy Towards the World
Create a classroom mural of community leaders who promote peace and compassion with our Murals of Peace activity. You will guide your students through questions about what peace looks and feels like, and explore what traits make a good leader. Then, students will share about a leader in their community with other students through a communal Padlet.
How Does Empathy Building Help Navigate Stressful World Events in Your Classroom?
At Empatico, we think of empathy as a multidimensional skill set that can be broken down into nine categories. Rooted in research literature from education, psychology, sociology, conflict resolution, and communication, the Empatico team devised the Empathy Framework to express our comprehensive approach to building life-long empathetic skills. The framework identifies three distinct domains of empathy: emotional, cognitive, and behavioral. There are also three levels of application or interaction: practicing empathy towards yourself, towards your community, and towards those outside of your immediate community.
To learn more about how to use the Empathy Framework to navigate stressful world events in your classroom, or to receive a weekly newsletter with more empathy-building activities, join us at Empatico.org.
Once you sign up for a free Empatico account, you’ll also have full access to our library of research-based classroom and virtual exchange activities, and an educator community committed to building a more empathetic future together.