Tag Archives: Empathy

The Negation of Polarization; Book by Book

It’s getting messy out there in the world. We are becoming more and more polarized in our beliefs and our stances. We are seeing the rise of fearmongering for those who are “other”.  We are seeing emboldened acts of racism, xenophobia, misogyny, antisemitism, Islamophobia, homophobia, that are being rationalized as normal nationalism. I could write a tome on the topic, but instead I would like to offer a short blog and a collection of picture books that might serve as a small antidote to the mistrust, distrust, misunderstanding, and misconceptions that are slowly poisoning our society. I believe in the power of books to change lives; to stimulate thinking and to open hearts. We are more same than different and yet we should celebrate our differences for the richness it brings to life. We need to love ourselves as well and feel like we belong. Mirrors, windows, sliding glass doors…it’s more than a catchy phrase for diverse books, it is guide for helping us get books into the hands of our children if we are ever going to raise a more compassionate generation.

There are soooo many out there, but I wanted to share a few picture books I have embraced recently. This is just a drop in the bucket of powerful picture books. I would truly welcome YOUR suggestions in the comments or on Twitter and Facebook. I’ve provided links to Amazon below but please visit your local indie bookstores or libraries to check these out as well.

Screen Shot 2019-09-22 at 8.41.28 AM

JUST ASK: BE DIFFERENT, BE BRAVE, BE YOU

THE PROUDEST BLUE: A STORY OF HIJAB AND FAMILY

A BOY LIKE YOU

SAY SOMETHING

I AM HUMAN: A BOOK OF EMPATHY

I AM PEACE: A BOOK OF MINDFULNESS

I AM LOVE: A BOOK OF COMPASSION

I AM YOGA

NEITHER

THEY SHE HE ME: FREE TO BE!

ERASER

AFTER THE FALL

THE BAD SEED

THE GOOD EGG

THE COOL BEAN

BE KIND

Book by book we can change the world!

Please share some titles that you think will help us make this world a more kind and compassionate place for our students to grow and thrive.

 

Advertisements

I Wish People Knew…

We know teaching is a difficult profession. (Well you do if you are in it!) One of the things that makes it difficult is when we feel invested and  truly care about the children we work with.  This week I witnessed just how difficult it can be as I watched no less than than three teachers reduced to tears by their circumstance.  Difficult parents, reluctant students, and an inability to fix everything.

We can’t expect to get a lot of empathy from people outside the profession who think our job is easy, or that we aren’t working long enough or hard enough, or that they know more about teaching than we do. We can’t expect help from people who pass mandates that ask us to do more with less, who cry “more money won’t help” and “class size doesn’t matter”, or who think the quick fix (and only fix) is simply opening charter schools and passing out vouchers for ‘choice’.

Sure, there are many parents, friends and family members who support us but it can still be overwhelming and at times we feel alone. The thing is, we aren’t. I think it is increasingly important that we seek and give support to those who walk in our shoes everyday. I saw it when I witnessed other teachers rally to comfort the tearful teachers. They knew. They empathized. They had been there.

These distraught teachers were not “whiners’. They were genuinely stressed by circumstance and demands and I thought they displayed courage by reaching out for support. I think we need to do more of this. I also know that it isn’t just the circumstance of the day that can be the tipping point for us. We carry our entire lives into our classrooms with us that acts as a base layer for our days. We don’t shed our personal stresses, concerns, health, or hopes at the door. We are humans, not robots.

At a workshop I facilitated yesterday, I wanted to bring that sense of empathy and community to our large staff. We all know each other, or think we do. Yet each of us sitting there brought  all of our ‘outside life’ into the room. It is unavoidable, it’s as much a part of who we are as our DNA is. So before we began, I wanted us to approach our learning together with open hearts and a genuine caring for one another, our profession, and the work we do as we live our lives.

I asked each teacher to anonymously fill out a slip:Screen Shot 2017-01-14 at 7.26.13 AM.pngThen we mixed up the slips and shared them at different tables to protect the anonymity of the writer. Here are some of the responses we read:

I wish people knew…

  • How difficult it is to take care of my mother.
  • How much I miss my babies.
  • I struggle to find nice things about myself that I like.
  • That I have social anxiety.
  • How much I work to make things less stressful for others.
  • That mornings are hard for me.
  • I’m dealing with a parent whose health is declining.
  • That if feel nervous in big crowds.
  • My anxiety controls me.
  • I was pregnant.
  • Sometimes I feel guilty that other people’s kids and not my own get the best parts of me because I’m so exhausted by the time I get home.
  • That I have a hard time showing emotions.
  • I worry about my adult children.
  • That it was my birthday.
  • That at school I feel very alone teaching.
  • How much the school means to me.
  • My dog is getting really old and it is breaking my heart.
  • That I grew up in a low income project in a city and that we lived off state welfare.
  • How discouraged I am due to the variety of student levels in my room.
  • I am always exhausted.
  • That the financial stress of planning a wedding is killing me softly.
  • I am still dealing with the death of my dog.
  • I have a horrible memory.
  • The heavy heart I carry.
  • How much I worry about my students’ home life.
  • I have a baby on the way.
  • Both my boys are in the military. That’s scary
  • How insecure I can be about my teaching.

There were dozens more. Each were equally touching and honest.  I can’t help but think differently about my staff now.  When I look into their faces, I have so much more empathy for the human beings they are, not just the teachers they present as. I thought I knew them all well, but there are so many levels of knowing!  As teachers, we acknowledge and grieve that our kids have struggles.  Let’s try to remember our colleagues do,too. Let’s continue to lift one another and be a light when things are dark.

What’s On My Book Radar?

screen-shot-2017-01-14-at-7-47-26-amSCAR ISLAND by DAN GEMEINHART

I have loved every one of Dan Gemeinhart’s novels and not a one is in any way similar! He creates such strong characters, exquisite settings, and edge-of-your-seat plots! Each one I read I find myself saying, “This is my favorite!” In this couldn’t-put-down middle grade novel, Jonathan Grisby is sent to Slabhenge Reformatory School for Troubled Boys, but it’s more like a dungeon on an island. He’s done something so terrible, he cannot bring himself to tell anyone about it. When something bizarre happens on the island, the children find themselves free, but then they must grapple with what freedom really means. It’s not what any of them expected. This book is like Dickens meets Lord of the Flies! Do yourself a favor and get a copy …NOW!