Giving back to society enriches us all, especially when we teach our children the importance of giving. The act of giving can lower stress, increase happiness and self-fulfillment, build social connections, create a sense of purpose, and improve emotional well-being. It is important to explore how we give, as positive energy is shared when we give willingly. The most powerful gifts are unconditional and given with respect and humility. Even the smallest act of giving can have a life-changing impact on others.
The Role of Educators in Nurturing Kindness and Teaching Empathy through Community Service Programs
The role of educators in nurturing kindness and teaching empathy through community service programs is essential. Schools can empower teachers through rigorous training and give them the liberty to experiment and fail so that the teaching community can successfully lead changes in the education system.
One way to promote kindness and empathy is through introspection sessions for teachers to understand their part as facilitators to enhance the teaching-learning process while considering their students' emotions. It is important to reiterate that values cannot be taught but are caught. Hence, educators need to plan for more practical-based teaching rather than giving students a platform to acquire knowledge theoretically.
The present education system in India focuses on imparting values and developing skills in students right from the foundational stages. The three developmental goals as per the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 could be reiterated for integrated and holistic development of students: Health and wellbeing, Effective Communication, and Involved Learners connecting with the environment. The third goal emphasizes the team spirit and involvement of children with others in cognizance of the institutional culture and family values.
Through community enrichment activities for children, schools have realized that youth are gradually becoming more rational, more mechanical, and more impulsive, moving away from the culture of focusing on values. This could be because we live in a society where youth are more engaged in social media. Therefore, it has become imperative for schools to recognize and foster the unique potential of each child and teach ethics and principles in daily school activities.
Schools can cherish the creative assimilation of human values, social values, ecological values, technological values, and constitutional values like empathy, respect for individuals, spirit of service, cleanliness, and respect for public property.
Student Empathy: An Essential Skill
Empathy is a vital skill that allows students to understand, share, and value the feelings of others from their perspective. Reinforcing the practice of empathy benefits students in classrooms and in their future professional lives. Higher empathy leads to higher emotional intelligence, which is linked to better academic performance, efficient conflict management, and better career prospects.
In today's increasingly diverse world, empathy is essential for students to realize that they all belong to the same community. The transition from focusing on Intelligent Quotient (IQ) to Emotional Quotient (EQ) to Spiritual Quotient (SQ) and now to Happiness Quotient (HQ) has proven that empathy contributes to higher levels of happiness and greater success in leadership positions.
A sample Study conducted for high school students through community outreach programme depicted that the children with empathy display:
More engagement & positive relationships
Better communication skills & academic achievement
Less aggressive behaviour & emotional disturbances
Hence, we reviewed our research on empathy and the strategies that promote it. We realized that there’s more to developing empathy than simply asking students to “walk in someone else’s shoes.”
Understanding and Building Empathy and Kindness
Empathy and kindness involve cognitive processes like thinking, feeling, and even a physical response of our bodies to others when we relate to how they feel.
Walk the talk: Teachers and all school members need to be role models so that children learn how to notice, listen, and care about others. They also need to teach children why empathy is important, as good leaders are also good followers. Another important role is encouraging students to move from words to action (having empathy to acting on it to avoid falling into the empathy-action gap).
There are some barriers to empathy, such as:
Feeling different or distant from another person
Being distressed by concern for another person
These barriers can be overcome by:
Respecting and valuing differences
Widening one's circle of concern
Managing difficult feelings like sadness, anger, and frustration
The biggest barrier to empathy is making assumptions, so it is important to refrain from doing so.
Understanding children is more important than making them understand our point of view. When we get frustrated with children, we need to pause and take a deep breath. Then, we should try to see the situation from their perspective before responding.
Connect before we correct: When students behave differently, we can reflect back their feelings for that kind of behavior before redirecting them. We should also be aware of children's nonverbal hints and show concern by asking them questions like "Is everything fine?" or "You seem to be a little low today."
Leaders create more leaders: We can explain to children that empathy improves the classroom and school community. We need to notice and have empathy for people beyond our school compound. We can give examples of acts of empathy, like helping, showing kindness, caring, or simply listening. We can also create opportunities to practice empathy in classroom situations through role plays, debates, and group discussions of case studies. We can ask thought-provoking questions like "What if I was there in that situation?" and "What would I do?"
My value, my values: We can integrate empathy into classroom culture. Annual surveys can be done for faculty and students through questionnaires to capture data on whether they feel respected and cared for at school. We can analyze the data and identify any problems to resolve immediately.
Empathy gives students the opportunity to be successful in a globalized world. This ability to empathize and communicate can make a strong community. Empathy can be:
Affective: referring to the sensations and feelings a person experiences
Cognitive: referring to understanding and identifying with other people's emotions
Compassionate: emphasizing action
When students are compelled to help on seeing difficult situations, they exhibit compassion and empathy.
Community projects are excellent ways to build compassionate empathy and teach students to work together towards a common goal. They can help students think about people who are living different lives and show them ways of taking action to help others.
Various Parents/Community Engagement Projects Taken Up at Our School
Our school takes up a variety of parent/community engagement projects, including:
Periodic events: workshops for parents, seminars, visits and talks by eminent personalities, and counseling sessions for students
Annual events: a skill showcase for mothers called Skill-O-Vation, Grandparents/Elders Day, and study tours and excursions
Ongoing communication: We regularly send parents information about school activities and their children's progress.
Parent volunteering: Parents volunteer their time and skills to help with various school activities, such as playing games, taking children on field trips, and assisting with sports, school exhibitions, and annual functions.
Parent representatives: Each class has a parent representative who helps teachers with parent-teacher meetings and classroom activities.
Community outreach: Willing parents are involved in community outreach work and home-based support to increase parent/community involvement in learning.
Awareness campaigns: We conduct awareness campaigns on topics such as Swachhta Hi Seva (Cleanliness Is Service), Meri Matti Mera Desh (My Soil, My Country), and Safe Diwali (Safe Diwali).