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  • Dr. Brian Dinkins

Why Every Educator Needs the Courage to Display Empathy


Maya Angelou once said,

“I think we all have empathy. We may not have enough courage to display it.”

When it comes to leading a classroom, leading with empathy is truly a courageous gift we can give to our students.  When this happens, safety is created and space is given for students to grow and become greater versions of themselves.  Educators can lead with empathy by understanding and responding to the emotions and experiences of their students. This can happen through active listening, validation of emotions, prioritizing strong relationships, understanding diverse perspectives, and forming nurturing learning environments.

Educators can demonstrate empathy by actively listening to their students. This means giving their full attention, asking questions to clarify what the student is saying, and responding in a supportive and non-judgmental way.  Going a step further and practicing these skills with students can help to build a classroom space where students are learning and practicing this key life skills with one another in a safe, supportive space.

Students may experience a range of emotions in the classroom, from frustration and anxiety to excitement and joy. Educators can lead with empathy by validating these emotions and helping students manage them in a healthy way.  Affirming feelings, while coaching students on appropriate and inappropriate responses can help create a warm classroom culture that is tolerant of students experiences, while also teaching positive tools and skills to respond to situations they encounter.

Building strong relationships with students is an important part of leading with empathy, and one of the most foundational skills an educator should master at the start of each school year. By getting to know their students on a personal level, educators can better understand their needs and support them in their learning journey, while also fostering relationships across the classroom as students interact and form relationships with one another.

It's important to remember that empathy requires understanding and respecting diverse perspectives. Educators can lead with empathy by recognizing and valuing the unique experiences and backgrounds of their students.  This means being curious about others thoughts, ideas, and actions in a non-judgmental way, validating unique experiences and backgrounds.

Finally, educators can lead with empathy by creating a safe and supportive environment for their students. This means creating a positive classroom culture, establishing clear expectations, and providing opportunities for students to succeed and grow.  The key here is its something created, starting with the educators own skills and mindset.

In summary, educators can lead with empathy by actively listening, validating emotions, building relationships, understanding diverse perspectives, and creating a supportive environment. By demonstrating empathy in the classroom, educators can create a positive and inclusive learning environment for all students.  True courage takes action...daily, intentional action to create and build with students, who often are so misunderstood already.  At Center for Empowering Education, we are experts at equipping educators with the training and tools they need to foster students success with emotional-intelligence as a core principle for student achievement.  Contact us, if you are interested in learning more about how we can support your school community.

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