George Lucas Educational Foundation
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When you're having a tough day, the support of friends and colleagues is essential. That's why empathy -- that ability we all have to identify with other people's struggles and support them through hardships -- is so important. 

In the video above, Brene Brown (also the author of a much-beloved TED talk on the power of vulnerability) explains the difference between sympathy and empathy in this adorably-animated video from the RSA. For more information on why empathy matters for schools, read Lauren Owens' post "Empathy in the Classroom: Why Should I Care?"

Another video worth watching is this one from Ashoka's Start Empathy project. For ideas about how to open up a conversation about empathy with students, see how the kids at a Bronx public school define the term.

Starting a conversation is a great first step for students, but there are many ways to create a lasting impact around SEL learning. If you want to go deeper, Rusul Alrubail has written a great guide on how to use design thinking to teach empathy here.

Finally, we know that people can definitely feel empathy for other people, but what about animals? Do your pets feel empathy for you? The folks at the Verge unravel some of the scientific research behind empathic responses.

We've previously featured 2 of these videos on empathy elsewhere on Edutopia, but they're so good, we think they're worth revisiting. Tell us how you practice empathy in your classroom (and beyond) in the comments below! 

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M Shafer's picture
M Shafer
Third grade teacher in the Midwest

I especially like Brene Brown's video. That's something we as adults need to cultivate as well. People's typical reaction to tragedy is to try to make it better and if that's not possible, to try to make the person feel better about what is happening.
I work with third graders. My class this year is very compassionate. While I don't do a specific curriculum on empathy, I try to take that compassion and use it in situations of conflict, encouraging kids to try to see someone else's point of view.
I hope others will chime in with ideas, practices, struggles, and viewpoints on empathy.

Keyana Stevens's picture
Keyana Stevens
Web Video Strategy Coordinator

That's so true! We think these videos are great for adults and students alike. If you liked Brene Brown's RSA video you will probably love her TED talks as well -- be sure to check those out.

YellowChevy's picture

Empathy was a very good emotion to teach and encourage students in a class. It could pave in building up peer and group cooperation. It encourages the students to loose their inhibitions and create positivity that a student in a class of students who empathized with their co students can somehow find support and confidence that he or she will not be condemned once he or she answered wrongly in a class or group discussion or recitation. For they will feel that sense of belonging and unification with them.

Initiating empathy and instilling them to the students as a positive attitude to encourage every student will not only uplift their spirit but will add to the productivity of the student to perform in class leading to better absorption of their lessons and will likewise benefit us instructors and educators as well. :=)

Rusul Alrubail's picture
Rusul Alrubail
Edutopia Community Facilitator/ Student Voice & Literacy at The Writing Project

Thank you for the shoutout Keyana! Love Brown's video. It actually was a video that inspired me to keep blogging, because it speaks to the power of vulnerability but also to connect with other people on such a humanistic level that is the essence of empathy! I think incorporating videos on empathy is an engaging way to start a conversation in class & promote social and emotional learning.

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