Why Is Empathy Important?

Avery Konda, Program Assistant, Centre for Changemaking and Social Innovation posted an article on Empathy and Why It Is Important on July 8, 2019. He asked a group of 60 students from the Simcoe County District School Board the question: Why do you think empathy is so important and what is empathy?
After a few minutes, one student answered, “Empathy is being there for someone.” Another student offered, “Empathy is being nice to people in the schoolyard.”
Although both students were technically correct, there is so much more depth to empathy that the students weren’t aware of. So Konda decided to “get the students to play with toys in the classroom and learn why empathy is the most important skill in the world today.”
“Each of the students formed into teams to play with the Empathy Toy, created by 21 Toys. The toy works to teach empathy-based thinking and how to put yourself in another’s shoes. After a few games the students’ demeanour, actions, and receptiveness began to change.”
The students who were originally having trouble connecting to the topic, began to see their peers’ perspectives.
The students who were quietest were given the opportunity to speak their mind in a safe environment.
The students who wouldn’t normally engage began taking the lead roles to build and guide during the game.
“The students were beginning to understand empathy!”
After the game Kondo brought the teams together to debrief on what they had learned, their challenges, and key takeaways from the game.
One student said, “Empathy is understanding another person’s perspective.”
Another student said, “Empathy is letting go of your own biases and learning new ones.”
The last student said, “Empathy is being open minded to diversity and welcoming differences. Empathy is simply being there for someone in a hard time to listen, and be a friend that they can count on.”
Kondo stated that “Students learn more from gasified activities that allow them to learn skills through application, more than they do through PowerPoints and traditional teaching…when they’re required to live and breathe the topic of conversation.”
I certainly can account for the same experience as Kondo has shared. My style of teaching has always been hands on, since I learn best that way. And, “Empathy” is such an important social skill to have when we teach students, especially when teaching teamwork, collaboration and listening skills.

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