Teaching about LOVE & EMPATHY
Today I am talking to two ladies who feel that LOVE and EMPATHY should be taught in class.
Vassiliki Mandalou is a Greek freelance teacher of philosophy, literature and linguistics. She also specialises in helping learners with learning difficulties (autism and Down syndrome). The passionate teacher gives sessions on "Philosophy for well-being "and "Poetry in motion" projects.
Hi Vassiliki, last month INSPIRATIONAL ENGLISH introduced HEART ELT to its readers. You are one of the first teachers who donated an activity to the project “A-Z of Hope”. Would you tell me how you got involved?
I got involved in the "A-Z of Hope" after I saw Julie Pratten's call for collaborators on Facebook. This innovative approach appealed to me and at the same time inspired me. I thought that this initiative had the potential to grow into a very different kind of teacher community; teachers collaborating for change. It is a wonderful mosaic of ideas and thoughts, teachers with different characters and styles engaged in harmony to create a book. Quite thrilling! And I was very touched when I learned about the charity aspect and spirit of support behind Heart ELT, I believe it is the first charitable publisher of this kind in ELT. After meeting Julie in person I realised why I Ioved the whole idea so much.
Some of your lesson plans teach about LOVE and EMPATHY. Why do you think it is necessary to talk about these topics in class?
Love and Empathy are two of the main teachings of Socrates. As a teacher of literature and philosophy I was extremely motivated to write lessons covering those topics. Why? Teaching children empathy, love, to treat others with kindness, tolerance and acceptance has never been more important than it is right now. I also believe that it is vital that we as teachers approach our teaching through LOVE. Love for what we do as a professionals, love for the process of learning and the love of our learners. We can't teach nor learn if we don't literally love what we are doing. Love can be taught, it's not something innate. It exists inside of us but so does hate. As our classrooms become increasingly more multicultural, the cultivation of love, one of the core elements in the teaching process is essential for creating caring and responsible global citizens.
How can we explain empathy to young children?
Empathy comes hand-in-hand with love. Empathy means putting ourselves in another person's shoes, in order to understand how he/she feels and to be able to embrace the differences and similarities between us. Empathy is a product that comes out of the filter of love. Through empathy learners understand the ideals of equality, coexistence, cooperation, peace and respect. And what better place for those blessings to bloom than in the classroom?
Julie Pratten is the creator of Heart ELT, a non-profit organisation in the UK that offers resources and support to children who cannot access education. She also developed the app Brighton Study Kit, a social initiative for the University of Brighton and Academic Flipwords, which focuses on vocabulary from the Academic Words List.
Julie, you believe in Carl Jung’s words that
“an understanding heart is everything in a teacher and cannot be esteemed highly enough. One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feeling. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child."
- but you also say that teachers should start with “loving themselves”. Why is it so important?
Teaching is a demanding job and we are used to juggling several different tasks and giving our all, but in order to avoid a stress meltdown, we need to take off ourselves. As teachers, whatever our mood we are used to going into class as usual without letting our students know we are feeling overtired or even depressed. I think at times when we feel our energy level is low we have to take the backseat for a while and allow our learners to take the initiative and sometimes the lead. This not only empowers them, but gives us a bit of a breather. It is important we recognise the signs of stress and overtiredness before they impact our health. One idea could be to arrange a 'breather' session with a colleague. You can combine two classes and one teacher could cover both classes while the other has a short 'time out' session to recharge.
You must be very proud of “A –Z of Hope”, the latest book created by Heart ELT. Can you tell us what materials teachers can find in the book?
A-Z of Hope contains 26 activities to inspire and bring fun to the classroom. Several activities in the book are classed as 'zero resource' lessons. This means that they can be used by teachers working in difficult circumstances who may have little or no resources; perhaps just a blackboard and chalk. As we started to think about the plight of such teachers, it occurred to us that one other function of the A-Z of Hope could be that those of us who consider ourselves 'privileged' teachers, with a rich array of resources at our fingertips, could take time to empathise with teachers who are working in very difficult circumstances.
Last but not least, before Christmas a wonderful book for young learners was published, called “Peace Plan”. Would you share with us how you came up with the idea and also how teachers and parents can obtain a copy?
A few months ago, a friend who works as a supply teacher asked if I knew any storybooks about peace, empathy and tolerance. I didn't, so I spoke to Julie G.Fox, the creator of Clever Fox Press, and she said 'Let's write one!' and the Peace Plan was born. The story takes place in Bluebell Wood, which is a magical place, but the animals don’t get along very well and have been squabbling a lot. Brave Badger and Clever Fox come up with a Peace Plan to make the wood a kinder place to live. But will everyone agree?
The Peace Plan and all other Heart ELT books can be ordered from Keltic Books online.
Peace Plan is also available from Amazon.
Heart ELT gives the chance to one of you to win a copy of PEACE PLAN.
Find out how:
Don't forget! The deadline is 20th February! Don't miss it!
Your students will really enjoy the book! Mine do!
From Russie with love