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learning empathy from a child

Learning Empathy Through a Teacher’s Story

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The following is a fantastic, true story from a teacher:

“I work as a resource room teacher with children who have learning disabilities. A few years ago a young boy began taking lessons in my resource room. I could not figure out what had brought him to seek my help. He clearly had no difficulty with his lessons and did well on all his tests. Yet, time after time he consistently came to my resource room for his lessons. I was determined to find his area of weakness but, as hard as I tried, I could not find any type of learning disability or difficulty.  Finally, out of frustration, I took him aside and told him I could not continue giving him lessons. It was a waste of his time and his parents hard earned money and he clearly did not need any sort of remedial help. The boy turned to me and said, “ I will tell you why I am here but I am asking you not to tell anyone else. I have a friend with a learning disability. Our teacher told him that he needed remedial classes in the resource room. He was so embarrassed to be singled out as having to go to your classes. I told him that it was no big deal and that I also take remedial classes. That is why I come to you- so that my friend will not be embarrassed”.

The boy who came to her class so as not to embarrass his friend was 10 years old at the time.

There is much to be said for the innocence of children. They possess a worldview yet untainted by the trials and tribulations life inevitably throws our way. Life is much simpler when we can strip away our differences and simply see each other as what we are: fellow human beings.

Children Can Teach Us Empathy, Compassion

Compassion for others in its purest form is all too rare a thing. The notion of seeking to comfort, rather than to be comforted, goes against many individuals’ nature. For most of us the only ways to learn that kind of empathy are through time and example. We can all learn a great deal from this 10 year old boy and the innocence of children.

Parents: The boy in this story is remarkable, but remarkable behavior is something we are all capable of. Empathy by example is a powerful asset. When children see their elders or their peers going out of their way to help others, they are more likely to do the same. Set a good example with your own behavior and encourage group activities like volunteering that make compassion a family affair.

Teens: The true test of character comes from how a person acts when no one else is watching. Without the promise of a reward or the threat of punishment, without announcing one’s actions for others to see, what does a person do. The boy in this story is a great example of someone doing a good deed because it felt like the right thing to do. He was thinking of his friend before himself. Rather than see it as a special circumstance that makes for a nice story, make it into reality by starting small. Set a goal to one good deed today and not tell anyone about it. See how it feels to do something for someone else without any expectation of external reward. The feeling itself is the reward, and the promise of making the world a better place one action at a time.

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