Empathy (Mindset #5)

Monday, February 15, 2016

     For the last 5 weeks, we have been using the ideas from A Mindset for Learning to promote the mindsets of optimism, persistence, flexibility, resilience, and empathy at Hiawatha School.  Check out these posts to read more about the mindsets, or look through #hiawathapride on Twitter.


     Just another Saturday morning at my house...  My daughter had wanted a zoo Playmobil set, and we finally bought it yesterday.  Today, she made a bigger zoo.  She opened the LEGO bin and built some new enclosures.  She found Playmobil sets we already owned and repurposed them as parts of a zoo.  She used her knowledge of Brookfield Zoo and added a lost and found, a blue ICEE stand, a stage, and some giraffes. 

     She even added an African Wild Dog enclosure.  Using a Playmobil puppy, and duplo LEGOS, she used flexibility and persistence to build an enclosure that is important to her.  She was even resilient when she had to keep digging through toys all over the house to find that dog, and it was optimism that she would find it that got her though.

     Wow, look at that.  All the Mindsets for Learning showed up in play on my kitchen floor.  Unguided.  Unstructured.  Just on their own, she used the 4 mindsets we have introduced.  

     Just wait for it, though... Here comes our 5th Mindset: Empathy!

     I started taking pictures of her play, as I often do, and I noticed the blanket on the sleeping lion.  Then, I noticed the water dish by the African Wild Dog, and the two Playmobil people almost holding hands.  That's when I saw the empathy in the way she sees the world.  

     The truth is, if children don't exhibit the mindsets for learning in their play, or in activities that they initiate, then how are they going to remember to be resilient during reading workshop?  Or persist during a math test?  Or be flexible when working on a science project? Low stress, choice given activities can be a valuable window into the mindsets that they exhibit, or need to develop.
      At school, our PBIS committee (thanks to the guidance of +Shianne Gillespie) is helping our students "Catch Kindness" in February.  All classrooms read a version of the bucket filler book, and now they have a bucket on their door to catch hearts when a student is caught being kind to someone else.  If we introduce empathy with this activity, we just need to think about our language when giving out a heart, or perhaps when deciding when to give a heart.  Sometimes, I have seen classes get hearts for whole class behavior.  If we really look at this as an opportunity to name and recognize kids being empathetic and kind to each other, then our students will see that we value each other and that kindness matters.  


     Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person.  It's kids knowing that other people exist in their world, too, and they need to be aware of other people's feelings.  This is how our kindergarten teacher, Rita Tameling, chose to introduce this idea to her students.


     She had them name the behaviors that would fill a bucket, like being kind to others, and helping people, complimenting others, sharing, playing with everyone, etc.  They also identified bucket dippers, like teasing, not sharing, being mean, tattling, pushing, hitting, etc.  In reality, the moment a child decides to fill a bucket or dip into a bucket is probably dependent on whether they have empathy (and self-control) or not.  If they have an awareness of the feelings of others, they will be bucket fillers more often. 

      How can you get your students to be more aware?  Ms. Tameling had them start with a personal pledge to be a bucket filler!  Reciting that pledge at morning meeting, or whenever a heart is put into the class bucket, or anytime someone starts to dip into a bucket, would be a great way to use the pledge on the path to empathy.  :)


     Here is our one sheet for empathy this week.  

Ok, Hiawatha!  Let's explore EMPATHY!  #hiawathapride

How does your classroom embrace empathy?  
How do students show empathy?

How are we using the rest of the mindsets with empathy?

Next week, we will explore how we continue to develop mindsets after they have all been introduced.  This is a looooooong game.  The development of mindsets takes time.   More on that next week!

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