TEACHING EMPATHY

In just a few days, Big H and Middle A will be starting school again.  They’ll sit in their classrooms and learn literacy skills, math equations, and how to read maps.  Their teachers will no doubt do a great job, but I’m also hoping that they’ll emphasize the religious virtues dedicated to each month.

As always, I love to read Facebook to pass the time.  For me, it’s like a current magazine that’s constantly updated.  I read quite a few links and have joined several forums.  I love seeing my friends’ posts and keeping up with what’s happening in their lives.  Last week, one post in particular hit me hard, but I don’t know the lady.  She posted it in a Mommy forum and I felt compelled to read it to the girls.

It was a mom’s post about her autistic child who was hosting a birthday party over the summer. More than 20 kids in the class RSVP’ed to attend and in the end, only one showed up.  My eyes welled up with tears reading that line.  I couldn’t imagine that happening and how disappointed the child must have been.  I felt the excitement of the preparations of the decor, loot bags, and snacks only to fall down into such sadness when only one “friend” showed up.  I pictured this happening to my own kids.  The mother went on to say that the child no longer wants to attend school.  It was heartbreaking.   The mother asked for birthday cards (and not gifts) to cheer her up and it was an easy request to fulfill.  I was happy to do it, but I also wanted the girls to understand the why behind it and to see if they could come up with that idea themselves.

After reading the post to the girls (leaving out the part about the card request), we talked about the situation and how the little girl must have felt.  I asked, “Is there something we can do?”  They quickly came up with, “Let’s get her a gift!” and “Where does she live?”  After a few more suggestions and understanding that she lives hours away, they realized sending a card was a good idea. I told them after that it’s what the poster suggested, but I wanted them to figure it out for themselves.  “Remember, that this year there is always going to be a child who may be left out or lonely.  I want you to look for them and make sure they are included.”

Last night, another friend and teacher, wrote about about reminding ourselves that all children just want to be accepted.  No one is weird, but different.  Don’t judge others because of their clothes, shoes, or hair.  Going back to school may be an amazing and exciting time for some, but simply terrifying for others.  Social issues are a huge part of the school environment.  I know this because I’ve dealt with it in class before (especially at the Junior level).

We all come from different walks of life and that is what makes us special and unique.  We all have a back story.  No one knows it all until we take the time to talk to that person and get to know them.  I hope this year, my girls continue to be kind and caring and to reach out to those who cannot advocate for themselves.  Multiplication is good and all, but I hope they come home excited about being a friend to someone who doesn’t have one.

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