Educators are in the middle of planning for a new school year, and while that always brings fresh ideas and innovations, this year, it is especially important to brainstorm added ways to show empathy. Students have been out of the classroom for more extended periods, and their routines and worldviews are different when they started the previous grade. How can we make sure that students feel and see that we care?
- Stay positive! It is easy to get frustrated because there are new mandates, restrictions, and requirements, but these changes are necessary to protect our students, colleagues, and ourselves. Find a viewpoint that allows students to see your positivity. Be genuine, but also work to spotlight the positive things you see and hear! This attitude of optimism will spread cheer to your students and make them feel welcome.
- Smile often! Even if teachers must teach while wearing a mask most of the day, there will be times that it is possible to socially distance and be mask-free. At those times – smile. A smile is contagious and speaks a universal message of warmth. Use smiles to let your students and the students you pass in the hallway know that you see them and you care.
- Listen closely. Sometimes we listen to respond, but one way we can show empathy to people around us is by simply listening. Hear what your students are saying, both through verbal and nonverbal communication. Be willing to hear what your students are saying and act accordingly. As previously noted, these are different times that require us to be more sensitive, more intuitive, and more responsive.
- Be flexible. Every good educator has a plan. Plans are essential, but with so many changes in students’ lives and the world, they need to see that teachers are flexible. Willingness to see that students’ minds are preoccupied with a local event or a national news story and altering a lesson to provide a safe environment for students to explore those feelings projects empathy and safety.
- Reward students! Find extrinsic and intrinsic rewards that let students know they are loved and appreciated. Celebrate their successes with praise notes and other incentives. Students love to see that they are in the spotlight, and celebrating their accomplishments will let them know how loved they are.
- Get to know your students. Getting to know each student takes time, and each year brings new wonder as students and teachers come together for the first time. Plan some activities to truly engage students in learning about who you are and understanding more about who they are as individuals.
- Keep doing what you have been doing! This post has already mentioned change a couple of things, but the same caring people who chose to become educators are the same caring people who will welcome students back in the classroom for another year. Even amidst a different world – than reality remains the same. Teachers chose to become teachers because they want to make a difference and because they care about kids. Keep caring, keep teaching, and keep guiding lives!
- It is impossible to detail all the ways to show empathy in the coming weeks, but it is possible to project how far taking time to care will go towards building strong bonds and healthy relationships. Thank you for reading these tips, and we hope they help make the start of the school year a bit easier for everyone as they transition back into a routine.