Stories That Move
Empathy plays an important role in understanding what discrimination does to people. It can give insight into different points of view and promotes open-mindedness. It is not something a learner has or doesn’t have but is a skill that can be practised. Talking about emotions and the role they play is only possible if the classroom is a safe space.
How to create an atmosphere where learners feel safe to voice their experiences and opinions and discuss respectfully with each other? Watch this video to see how Lutz van Dijk, the educator and well-known author of many books for young readers on sensitive topics, describes what is meant by safe space.
If you want to understand what discrimination is, the first step is to understand what it does to people. Stories that Move helps learners step into the lives of young people who talk about different forms of discrimination and encourages them to share their own experiences and observations with their fellow learners. Empathy gives insight into different points of view and promotes open-mindedness. It is not something you have or don’t have but is a skill that can be practiced.
Empathy start with recognition of our own emotions. Learners may be asked to take a moment to listen to what they themselves are feeling at that moment, and then choose how to express their emotion. They may sum it up as a word and write it down, or as a colour or a song, or act it out. They should be free to decide whether they want to share this with others or not. The more they practise this the more confident they will become; and the better they recongnise their own emotions, the better they will recognise them in others. But it does not end here. Being empathetic is also a strong incentive when it comes to taking action for others.
However, while empathy is the important ability to put yourself in the shoes of others, it is equally important to put yourself back in your shoes again and consider how different it feels.
Researcher and author Brené Brown on empathy: