Jul 14, 2021
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The Role of Empathy in Teaching

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The profession of teaching plays a very significant role in a country’s development. Teachers have the potential not only to lend subject knowledge but also contribute to the development of the personality of a student. Apart from other skills that are required like organization and delivery of subject knowledge, technical skills required to teach the subject knowledge, a teacher should also have the quality of empathy.

Empathy can be described as the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. It is to understand the emotions others and be able to walk in their shoes and think from their point of view. To be interested, encouraging and supportive of others’ feelings is empathy.

The empathy that a teacher should possess involves understanding the students’ personal and social situations and their positive and negative emotions. The responses of the teacher are very pertinent in dealing with the situation without moving away from student learning. The compassion that a teacher shows can help students go a long way. It dispels fears in their minds and contributes to their success. In the process the teacher is also teaching students to become empathetic which will add to the flowering of their personalities.

Empathy is part of emotional literacy. Teachers can become more competent by understanding this quality and adding on to their knowledge about the same. For example, a student suffers from a fear of failure, the teacher can lend his/ her emotional support and this can be done in a phased way. Sharing stories, listening to the student’s perspective, giving personal examples of failures and success, creating a secure space for the student to open up, increasing the moral confidence of the student, setting short-term goals, encouraging the student to maintain a personal diary of his successes (in other areas and failures), praising the student and recognizing his/ her abilities are some of the many ways.

Teachers should also understand, the need to put aside their ego. An ego-centric attitude especially in teachers may mar student-progress. Becoming good teachers involves a combination of subject-knowledge, the related skills and the quality of empathy. It results in building a sense of security, forging better relationships with their friends, readiness for learning better, acceptance of others and a good mental health. All these result in a fine attitude for them to lend harmony and also manage conflicts.

The empathy and patience shown by the teacher will also result in better classroom management and will help effective and successfully achieve learning objectives and outcomes. Creating positive experiences, to positively wait for responses and results and promptly keeping up promises by the teacher, are all the dynamics that lend to the quality.

To sum up, empathy int teaching rests on the following aspects:

  • Shifting one’s viewpoint will help us become objective while dealing with a student
  • Not jumping to conclusions
  • Listening
  • Responding and not reacting
  • Following up regularly to offer a sense of belonging
  • Understanding that all students are not the same
  • Encouraging
  • Recognizing positive aspects in students while counseling
  • Aiming at creating a more empathetic environment in the classroom
  • Separateness should be avoided- While in an activity like a story session, where the students are asked questions like…” What would you do in such a situation?”/ “Do you really think we need to work hard to save planet earth?”/ “Do we need better policies for transgenders?”, the teacher should never separate herself as an all-knowing fountain of knowledge. He/she must participate in contributing to the question in discussion. Vulnerability on the part of the teacher makes the teacher sound normal and helps students to overcome their inhibitions.

If practiced consciously, the quality of empathy shown by teachers will produce better students and better individuals in the future, they will be equipped with self-awareness, a capacity to self-advocate and a positive attitude that can help them get better outcomes in their employment.

Showing empathy enriches teachers who acquire the potential to better the teaching-learning possibilities to make education more meaningful.


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