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Contributing Editor: Jazmine Tavenner, Director of Programs

From altered routines to online instruction, educators have had to navigate profound and unexpected challenges this year. As we continue to adjust while trying to remain present and optimistic, it may prove difficult to know exactly how to show up for students. What can we do to ensure that they are fulfilled, supported, and—most importantly—able to learn? Our answer to this question is straightforward: practice empathy. While empathy can’t stop Zoom from freezing or adapt our lessons to meet this year’s demands, it will remind us that we’re all in this together and that we are all facing similar struggles with personal implications. By responding with empathy, we can make space for understanding and forge lasting connections that will help us thrive in these challenging times.

When we learn to empathize with another’s experiences, we can optimize how best to support our students and fellow educators. In this issue, we explore the three different types of empathy—cognitive, emotional, and compassionate—and apply them to everyday situations. From proactively addressing bullying to creating a learning environment that develops understanding and respectful behavior, these articles will offer you insights about the way you show empathy, suggest activities to build students’ empathy, and provide strategies for creating a culture of empathy, regardless of where your learning is taking place.

Articles in this Issue:

What Is Empathy?

Leslie Jamison writes that empathy is a kind of travel: entering another person’s experience “as you’d enter another country, through immigration and customs, border crossing by way of query . . .” (2014). Empathy requires us to be a respectful guest who is there to observe, reflect, and seek to understand another person’s experience. To…

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Compassionate Empathy: The Greater Good and Social Justice

I think we should talk more about our empathy… the ability to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes; to see the world through the eyes of those who are different from us—the child who’s hungry, the steelworker who’s been laid off, the family who lost the entire life they built together when the storm came…

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Bullyproof Your Classroom With Empathy

Within each of the five social and emotional competencies—cooperation, assertiveness, responsibility, empathy, and self-control—are skills and standards aimed to mitigate bullying. One competency, however, is uniquely poised to bullyproof a classroom: empathy. Because it is a complex yet elastic set of skills that fosters understanding, diversity of thought, and respect, empathy is a powerful tool…

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Preventing Bullying Using Empathy

While it may be easy to cast those who bully as villains, it is far too simplistic to consider bullying behavior in terms of good versus bad. Research suggests that children who bully often have legitimate deficiencies in their social and emotional development that hinder their ability to effectively navigate social interactions and solve problems…

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Tying Empathy to Digital Responsibility

From an early age, children learn the basics of good citizenship from parents and teachers. They are taught the fundamentals, including good manners, taking turns, using kind words, caring for others, sharing, and respecting cultural norms. Since the advent of the Internet, though, a new aspect of citizenship has emerged: Social media. Existing outside the…

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Morning Meetings: The Heart of Our School Community

Public PreK-5 in Waukee, Iowa Implementing Responsive Classroom since 2016 In a normal year, teachers at Grant Ragan Elementary in Waukee, Iowa, would have been welcoming students back from spring break. But this was March 2020. Like many other places around the country, schools were closed statewide and educators were scrambling to reinvent education. There…

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