Empathy vs. Sympathy: Getting to know your leaner

This has been on my mind a lot. I think it has been on the whole world’s mind as well, as the world is burning, flooding, ‘quakin’ and going crazy about kneeling. Where does empathy come into play?

Of course we feel sympathetic to the people who have suffered displacement and loss through forest fires, extreme hurricane weather, the massive earthquake in Mexico City but unless you have experienced these things for yourself can you really deem yourself empathetic to the cause. I have been rolling that rock over in my head, I can put myself in that scary place in my head but I can’t imagine my own reaction of a natural disaster.

As for the catalyst for the whole kneeling debate but the word empathy strikes an incredibly close to this debate. The Black Lives Matter movement is something I feel very strongly about and I am connected to. If you feel like you don’t understand/like/or care about this movement I urge you too look at this and reassess. One of the guiding principles of the movement is “Empathy: We are committed to practicing empathy; we engage comrades with the intent to learn about and connect with their contexts.” My partner and I have heated debates about the BLM movement and the design of the name, he feels is isn’t inclusive to all and I feel that you don’t have to be inclusive of another race to feel sympathetic or empathetic to that race’s struggle. Why does the word “black” make him as a white or caucasian feel so excluded and why doesn’t it with me?  I make no claims to understand fully the impact of being an African-American or black person in society, I never will and I can only gain sympathy from context of great stories told.

On to the kneeling debate, an anthem is a reflection of ones country in song or poetic rhythmic form, although our country has great people who put their lives on the line for this country through the military, and first responders, our country is also made up of teachers and instructional designers (see what I did there *wink*), people who deliver our snail mail, build our roads, farm our foods, sell us items, doctors, pharmacists, and nurses who give us wellness, engineers that make our buildings safe, architects who create visually appeasing things, companies that create jobs, politicians who fight for our rights, the list can go on and on… An anthem reflects us all, and we all can agree is America can do better, there are problems that is why we (left, right ,and center) vote, march and give our opinions. Kneeling is just saying “we can do better for the black community” institutionalized racism and police brutality holds our community back. Where on national TV do we see a African-American community leaders dominate ratings and have a large mixed race and unlikely audience? It’s genius if you ask me, don’t let this hijacked by free speech, which is a given, constitutionally given. Take a moment and think, that just because it isn’t the realm you want to see racism in your face, have some empathy or just plain sympathy that things aren’t the best for the African American community. I like quantifiable numbers to make a impact, here are some numbers that are alarming###!!!. Where does or has racism make a smooth entrance, when can we talk about this? So in the interest of revolutionary and social change have some empathy for the African-American community and think about things from another perspective for just a moment.

Changing car’s but still on the empathy train…. I promise that this is all going to make sense.

This is something that I heard on CPR a couple weeks ago. I was in the car headed to story time with my little lady. This teacher (the teach of the year of Colorado, 2016 visited Finland to learn about their school system ) was talking about the model that is used in Finland for teaching, the children getting as much play as class time and the teachers using that time to evaluate each child. This is where empathy really resonated with me. I have been working on this project for my Instructional Design class, I’ve mentioned in previous posts, we had this whole first part of our project that was about being empathetic to the learners. I was a little miffed at the project finding it slightly wasteful of our time, thinking “yes yes empathy is good and all, but I really want to know more about educational design models,” After hearing this teacher speak I realized the importance of always getting to know your learner and taking that time to evaluate modify and assess your perspective, the learners journey and how you can be better.

Another thing that really resonated with me is in Finland at schools, they use current events to teach all different subjects. For example like I did in the first part of this blog, tying in my feelings about empathy in the world events happening around us. Or say the earthquake in Mexico spurs the discussion of, how earthquakes happen from a geological science perspective, the math that is used in the engineering of cities that are on fault-lines, the history of Mexico and where have earthquakes affected this country before, so on and so forth.

Anyway I hope that in reading this you find some time to be empathetic for whomever the learner(s) in your world is. By involving current events into all aspects of instruction can really bring about connecting the things that happen around us to the far off concepts and theories that trip students up.

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A bear in fall on the loose!

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