#PandemicEDU: Empathy and Education

I’ve become this evil person on Twitter. I’ve spoken my truth and educators are trying to shame me out of existence. I love it. Part of my purpose in being so “evil” is to plant a seed of reflection in the hearts of some educators who are, as we ALL are, frustrated with how this school year has progressed. It’s been hard, hard as hell, harder, for me, than any year I’ve taught. The reasons for the horror that has been the 21-22 school year are many.

A lot of “life” has gone out of being “human” in the last couple of years. The pandemic has forced everyone to adjust to situations and respond to interactions in ways many didn’t think they’d ever respond. A lot of empathy has been drained out of our lives. I’ve talked about it. People have chastised me for talking about it. It’s all good. The need to be victimized is fascinating:

I was immediately accused of “not allowing teachers to vent”. Ummm, vent on angels, but at some point, decide why you’re venting and conduct yourselves accordingly. It DOES grow old and nothing will change if all you’re doing is venting!

Education, being a teacher, more than anything else, is about being empathetic to the needs and desires of your students. This doesn’t mean we tolerate bad behavior from those students. I mean, seriously, its April and kids are still cussing at you? Why is THAT happening? Why do you think that’s a flaw in THEIR character? They’re CHILDREN – they’re going to do what we ALLOW them to do!

I’m having a side bar with a colleague about this topic and he reminded me of something very important – comfort zones have been disrupted.

Which goes back to my original post – determine if this is for you and adjust yourself.

Education truly isn’t for everyone. Some educators, like parents, have fond memories of that great teacher that inspired them and sitting in classes where everything flowed smoothly. Being a student is nothing like being a teacher. We had no idea what was going on behind the scenes (well, I was the child of teachers, so I had a feel for it), so the rosy colored world of education is a fallacy. Ladies and Gents, this ain’t no high school musical.

Our mindsets determine our successes. I speak on it constantly, establishing relationships with students creates environments where, though there will be bad days, we are able to do our jobs. There are 600+ seventh graders in my building. I only teach about 110 of them, yet, every day, students greet me. Students will tell their friends that “Mrs. Stone is cool, she keeps it real. You try to push her, she will push back.” I smile when I hear that. I’ve been called “mean” by total student strangers and I ask why. The reason usually involves me having the audacity to give a damn about what someone is doing and commenting on it. After a brief conversation, they get over it. They may never speak to me again, but they know where I stand and are able to make the choice to engage or not.

Empathy. I don’t have to love you, I don’t even have to like you. I do have to have empathy for your humanity and remind myself daily that I know nothing of your world and what is going on in it and therefore should be prepared for you to come to me incorrectly and adjust my interaction with you so we both come away as unscathed as possible. I also have to MODEL empathy, so students learn how to give a little in order to get a little.

Yes, I vent about my job. Mainly about what the adults are doing, not the kids. The adults are supposed to “know better”, yet, some don’t. As noted above, they’ve been pushed out of their comfort zones and just want things to be “normal”… whatever the hell that means to them. There is no “normal”. Never was. There are only the things we CHOOSE to tolerate and the things we decide we want to change. Life is fluid, learn to swim.

We should do these things in an empathetic way. For the children. For the “business of education”. For society.

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