Empathy: Walk the Walk

Josie Tipton

Josefina Tipton

Teachers help children learn empathy through daily interactions and conversations in the classroom.

Teaching social emotion learning skills is vital to learning to self-regulation. However, children need to learn about empathy since this isn’t an innate emotion. 

Teachers can help children learn about empathy through practice opportunities within the classroom. Teachers can help children learn about empathy through a variety of activities such as having children identify other people’s emotions through facial expressions, listening to their words and noticing body language. Children can learn to have empathy for themselves but for also others through perspective taking and that happens when adults help point out these opportunities.  

Another key element of teaching empathy is modeling for others. Teachers can walk the walk so to speak by showing empathy for themselves. Teachers often are more critical of themselves and their failures but if they are able to show self-care and care for their teaching partners they will be modeling for students how to care for others.  

Another fun activity to help children learn empathy is by taking care of a class pet or by investigating worms. By teachers bringing in worms for a science activity, teachers can point out how fragile the worms can be. Teachers can talk about how worms need water and gentle hands, so they are safe. This can be incorporated into taking care of animals and smaller children and elderly family members.  

Teachers can begin incorporating empathy into their daily lives and interactions with family and colleagues so that it becomes a natural part of their person. It helps them navigate difficult teaching/parent relationships as well as helps the individual show care for self and are then able to take care of others.