Teaching with Empathy

Teaching with Empathy

We are all teachers in some capacity. Parents, grandparents, coaches, uncles, aunties, trainers, leaders and mentors. In these roles, we are all guiding someone. Helping them make change.

Teachers work with students from different backgrounds. With different points of view. With different learning styles. Take for example the mature age student.

A mother of two who is juggling part-time work and study. Not to mention full-time family. She has not studied since leaving University in her second year. She has not had to write an essay in nearly 30 years. Now she has to write 4 pieces of work in the space of 4 weeks.

She receives feedback on her first piece of work. In fact there is a lot of feedback. Feedback for improvement. But, she takes this feedback personally, and views each comment as a mistake. And she can’t believe she made so many mistakes. Her confidence level has dropped. She is afraid to send in her next submission. And she shares this fear with her teacher.

The teacher sees this note and responds immediately. She re-assures the student that essay writing is a learnt skill, that requires practice. She advises the student to lean on her (and other lecturers) for support. “I am here to help you improve, and feedback is designed for that, not to make you feel like you can't do it.”

She offers the student to review her drafts before the submission date. Even though it is the weekend. “I will have a look through them and make sure you are on the right track.” An extra level of support and encouragement. This gives the student hope to keep trying. She feels like the teacher understands her situation. She feels like she can make the changes required, to improve her essay writing.

She re-submitted her work. And after a nervous wait, she received a short message from her teacher. Four words that made her jump with joy, "Great - that’s much improved."

All because the teacher started with empathy.

Image by claude_star



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