March 17, 2016

Empathy- Walk a Mile in Someone Else's Shoes

Empathy- The ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
Also known as, the ability to put yourself in someone else's shoes and understand 
their feelings and point of view.

It may seem simple to some, yet it can be very abstract 
and hard for little ones to grasp.

For some, it seems like an easy concept, it just comes naturally. Some kids are born with an amazing skill to emphasize with others and do not 
need to learn much more. They can evaluate a situation and know exactly how 
the other person feels and are blessed with the ability to instantly put 
a plan into action to make a person feel better.

Others are not so lucky. For some kids, it is really hard to put themselves in someone else’s shoes and understand the other person’s perspective. It can cause interpersonal issues because they do not understand what their friends are going through or what they can do to help. I cannot blame them, this is a high level skill if you really think about it. 
I know a few adults who cannot even do this.

I wanted to teach my students empathy and foster their skills in a non-intimidating way. I wanted to teach it in a way that allowed them to learn while they think they are just playing a game. By guiding the student through open discussion, a strong sense of empathy can be developed.  

I tried out some new ideas on a student that I’ve been working with to further develop  her empathy skills. She is super sweet, incredibly honest and self-reflective, yet doesn’t always think about how her actions may affect others.

In our last lesson, we started the conversation about empathy. Somehow we started talking about walking a mile in someone else’s shoes. She told me she wanted to practice walking in other people’s shoes so I created these cards just for her.  

The next time she came to me, we used the “Walk a Mile in Someone Else’s Shoes” cards to solidify her idea of empathy. I coupled these cards with Jenga to transform it from just a conversation into an interactive game.

The green box in the bottom left corner of the Jenga picture is the box I store the cards in. Once we were done talking about a card, it went right back into the box. I got pizza boxes from Jet's Pizza (they were nice enough to give me boxes that fit one slice that are the perfect size for these cards. I painted it green because, well, why not, and then glued a popsicle stick to the front of the box to use as a label. I wrote "Walk a Mile" on the stick in permanent marker and bam! I had a great home for these awesome cards. 

I laid all of the double sided cards face down on the tabel and set up Jenga right next to it. 

We took turns picking a Jenga block and trying not to crash the tower. 

After we successfully placed a block on the top layer, to finish our turn we picked a “Walk a Mile” card and had an open discussion about the situation. 

After all questions on the card were asked and answered, the next person took a turn.

She took advantage of a tool in my office that I did not think about combining with this activity but will 
always utilize together in the future. 

I love when the students teach me. 

There was one situation that she was finding 
really tricky. As she was thinking about how 
the situation would feel, she looked over at my
 emotions chart and talked it through.

“She wouldn’t feel mad because this isn’t a bad thing. She wouldn’t be sad either. Happy is a possibility but so is surprised. Would this make me more happy or more surprised? Hmmm.”

It was so fun listening to her thinking processes.

I realized she had been looking at the emotion posters on my wall and using them to narrow down her options. I thought that was genius. I pulled the chart off the wall and placed it on the table next to us. From that moment forward, if I thought the situation was important for her to think deeply about, or if I wanted to play with the idea longer, we would go through the chart and discuss why or why not the emotions would fit the situation.

I have to admit, I had so much fun with her and was really sad when our time was up and she had to go back to class. I'm not sure who benefited and enjoyed the lesson more, me or her. 

I want to do more empathy work with her and really make her empathy skills solid. 

What do all of you wonderful school counselors out there do to introduce students to the idea of empathy? 

What resources are a “must have” when teaching students empathy? 

I would love to build off of your experiences as well as collaborate ideas!

Comment or message me, I’d love to hear from you!

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