Teaching with empathy: Rethinking Education for a more humanity in teaching
We all teach students from different social, economic, cultural backgrounds with different levels, needs, interests and abilities. This can make our lives as teachers a little bit difficult as we need to differentiate the work to personalize the learning of all our students. That is even more tricky when we have 30 kids to teach. But that is what we aim to do. Well, if you want to make it right, whatever the context of your school or class there is one basic rule to follow: empathy and understanding because your students are human beings- yes, they are ! and what they need is teachers with their ears wide open. Sounds easy, right? Well, the reality of a teacher is unfortunately far from being that ideal.
1. What is teaching with empathy
Teaching with empathy means to try to understand others. Understand students’ backgrounds, understand where they come from, understand where they stand and understand their goals. Empathy comes with the willingness to support the other, it is the ability we all have to put ourselves in the shoes of others. So why should we teach with empathy? Because that is the whole point of teaching: trying to reach out the students to get the best out of them so that they can reach their potential.
2. What are the obstacles to teaching with empathy
As teachers, we should always aim at trying to understand the ones we teach. That may sound obvious. But what when we are swamped under paperwork? What when we don’t have time to talk to little Johnny because of a meeting? What when we are just simply exhausted and want to shut down and forget about school? What when we have too much on our plate? We are just human beings at the end of the day and sometimes what we do is not enough but we also need to acknowledge that we did try our best. Teaching in the UK is considered as one of the most stressful jobs. Long hours, huge amount of paperwork, long contact hours, inadequate training, behaviour management issues, endless marking are just some of the complains from teachers. Some of these tasks are necessary but how much time dedicated to these tasks will really improve the lives of our students? How much of it could be simplified to save time that could be redirected to learning for children and training for teachers?
We require teachers to do their job properly and with empathy but their administration is putting so much weigh on their shoulders that many teachers quit the profession.
3. Back to more humanity in teaching
Education as it is, has to change for the sake of kids and for the sake of our future. Schools have to do what they are advocating: putting kids at the center of the learning wheel and giving teachers the right tools to do so.
I am not reinventing the wheel, I am just the voice of my peers who are so dedicated to their students but that are also so overwhelmed with pointless tasks. We need to make time for teachers to get proper training. We need to make time to create valid interactions with students and parents to improve learning and to personalize it. Even if our world is a digital one we shouldn’t put all our hopes in just technology either. We will always need human interactions to improve our learning and understanding of the world. My point here is that tests, grading, paperwork, endless emails that are mainly used for management purposes should shift towards more time devoted to what actually matters: Teaching and Learning. Teachers are the ones on the front and there should be more listening to what they have to say than to political talks. Students are human beings and not money figures.