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Stories about empathy

By Lory Hough 08/28/2017 9:28 AM EDT
Des Floyd
You've heard of moot court? The activity at law schools where students simulate court proceedings as a way to turn the theoretical into the practical? Des Floyd, Ed.L.D., thought, Why not create something similar for secondary school students but, instead of teaching law skills, present them with common experiences that teach compassion? Last spring, the classroom activity, called Care Court, earned Floyd a finalist slot in the Dean’s Challenge, a contest where Ed School students worked alongside Making Caring Common to develop simple education ideas that promote empathy. Floyd says he used a...
By Leah Shafer 06/01/2017 10:28 AM EDT
One and All
With its emphasis on perspective-taking, public speaking, and exploring difficult themes, theater is a valuable medium for teaching kids about social justice. After working with students for more than a decade on pieces related to bullying and human rights, performing arts teacher Ruthie Pincus founded the New York–based nonprofit Stage the Change in 2012 to empower students and schools to take a stand against discrimination. We spoke with Pincus about how theater programs can transform school communities. Theater can “break students out of their bubbles.” When students write a monologue from...
By Leah Shafer 04/18/2017 1:37 PM EDT
photo illustration of a municipal building or state capital
Following the 2012 enactment of a landmark bullying prevention law, Washington, D.C., has taken a more comprehensive approach to youth bullying than many other cities — an approach that sees prevention as not solely the responsibility of teachers or parents, but as a citywide mandate with shared responsibilities. In fact, every city agency in D.C. that provides services to children is required to implement a bullying prevention policy. We spoke to Suzanne Greenfield, the director of the Citywide Youth Bullying Prevention Program, about what’s made D.C.’s program effective. The city has a...
By Jill Anderson 03/30/2017 2:38 PM EDT
Alysha English
As Commencement approaches, we look back the impact our students made over the course of their year at the Ed School. On a cold February afternoon, the view into a Longfellow Hall classroom might raise some eyebrows. There, a group of HGSE students — members of this year’s Urban Scholars Fellowship program — stand staring into each other’s eyes, mimicking each other’s movements without speaking, though the occasional giggle does erupt. Over the course of an hour, the students dance, listen to music, share life’s disappointments, and perform monologues. More than an effort to break the ice...
By Leah Shafer, Bobby Dorigo Jones 03/30/2017 11:44 AM EDT
Beyond Survival
For students who identify as LGBTQ or are gender non-conforming, school can be a difficult, even dangerous, place. Especially in the wake of shifts in federal guidance on transgender students, educators can make a difference by openly supporting these students. When School Isn’t Safe LGBTQ students can feel “isolated and alone and rejected” when peers and teachers don’t accept them, says Tracie Jones, who runs student diversity and inclusion programs at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE). Children as young as kindergarten can be bullied for not fitting in with typical gender...
By Jill Anderson 03/01/2017 3:32 PM EST
Tweet to Action
As Ashley Ford describes it, it was "some random thoughts on a random day." She had no idea that putting it out into the twitterverse at that moment would spark a movement. Yet, now, over $150,000 has been donated nationwide by hundreds of people in order to wipe out the lunch debt of strangers. "What's beautiful is that I tweeted the idea and these other people decided to make it happen in their own communities," says Ford, a writer and editor whose work has appeared in The Guardian, ELLE, and Slate, among other publications. "That's the thing that overwhelms me." The importance of school...
By Leah Shafer 02/27/2017 2:12 PM EST
Raising Kind Children
Families foster kindness and respect at home by setting expectations for manners, sharing, and helping with chores. And families hope, often with a tinge of worry, that children will continue those behaviors when parents and caregivers aren't nearby: in the school cafeteria, at a friend’s house, or on Instagram and Snapchat. But guiding children to be empathetic and ethical in their independent lives — even when no one is looking — can be more intentional than that. Here, a set of parenting strategies for teaching children to think ethically, care about the people around them, and create...
By Matt Weber 02/21/2017 8:00 AM EST
Male and female college student studying in library
In her years as president of Heritage University in Washington State, Sr. Kathleen Ross noticed an emerging trend. The number of students matriculating whose parents did not have college degrees was growing to the point of outnumbering the students whose parents had finished degrees. But then she observed something else about this "new majority" — they weren't succeeding in their studies at quite the same rate. "While it's wonderful that there are all these new majority students coming to university," says Ross, "[but] the fact of the matter is that ... the percentage of those students...
By Leah Shafer 02/21/2017 7:56 AM EST
Teacher leading discussing with diverse group of elementary school students
When the news is filled with racialized rhetoric or violence, teachers need to be prepared to discuss these topics with their students — especially when those students are people of color, economically disadvantaged, immigrants, or undocumented. It may be tempting to think of your classroom as an unaffected space, but students are going to hear about traumatic events anyway. Many may feel anxious or fearful, making it hard for them to engage academically. And for the students who identify with targeted groups, it can be “dehumanizing not to have their experiences addressed in schools and by...
By Usable Knowledge 02/21/2017 7:53 AM EST
Young girl sits with head in hands. Another girl in a backpack walks toward her
These three steps — to counter bullying or begin to change a bullying culture — are offered by Gretchen Brion-Meisels, a researcher and lecturer in prevention science and practice at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. A onetime elementary and middle school teacher, Brion-Meisels now works to explore holistic student support processes that build on the local knowledge of students and communities. First, build strong relationships between adults and young people. Make time for people to build relationships and get to know each other as human beings. Allow students to learn about each...

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