Through the Eyes of an Educator: What’s Not in the Books

by Stacey Ebert / Feb 03, 2020 /
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We’ve been rolling in 2020 for a month now, and it’s been quite a tough–at times it feels like we’ve experienced an entire year in one month. Bushfires in Australia are taking their toll, the US government is in the middle of an embattled impeachment trial, a new virus is plowing through China, and in a tragic accident, the world lost a legend beyond the court of basketball; this year is off to a difficult beginning. Each of these will surely see their spots in the history books. Each has earned their place in water cooler conversation, shed tears, and the annals of anxiety. While the angst and sadness is hanging there, I choose to honor the words of a children’s television host who took off his shoes and put on cardigans. It’s the story he famously retells about what his mother told him when he saw scary things: reminding him to ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping’. Through the tears, this is where I choose to focus my energy. 

Through the Eyes of an Educator: What’s Not in the Books

Kindergarten classes, the world over, teach students kindness. We utter phrases like ‘share your blocks’, ‘sit with a buddy’, and ‘listen to your friends’. We teach young children to help someone up when they fall, to give a hug when a friend is sad, and to give a snack to a buddy who doesn’t have one. 

The ability to share someone else’s feelings is paramount to growth. 

Perhaps we use words like kindness, caring, or consideration–but it’s empathy for which we’re aiming. Empathy, that greater ability of shared emotion, is a game changer–and what the world seems to need more of each and every day. 

How do you teach empathy?

Through the Eyes of an Educator: What’s Not in the Books

Check out the history books, and you’ll find shreds of it. During times of violence, destruction, and turmoil, there are helpers. These are those who offer assistance, are kind, and might even put themselves at risk to do so. The ones who perform acts of good when no one is watching, the ones who help quietly seeking nothing in return, and the ones who know that a hug, a place to stay, or an ally is all that matters–these are the acts to be celebrated. How do we make sure that our students, our next generation, focus on the helpers, as well as learning about those who are at the heart of the destruction? Find any school playground, lunchroom, or classroom, and you’ll see them. They’re there, sometimes quietly going about their lives doing good when they can. Those who protect the victim of bullying, those who sit with the lone child at the lunch table, and those who offer to help others without being asked. 

These are the efforts to acknowledge.

Through the Eyes of an Educator: What’s Not in the Books

Travel helps. Getting out of your comfort zone helps. Remembering what it was like to be that child, to be that individual, or to be in that situation helps. But, of course, what if we were never that child, were never that individual, or have never been in that particular situation? That’s where the learning happens, that’s where the growth comes in, and that’s where the empathy is fostered. We don’t have to be that person, be in that space, or be dealing with that situation–wanting to help is the key. And if ever someone we love or us ourselves were ever in that situation, we’d want someone else to do the same. Wanting to offer assistance, build a bridge, create a bond, or be a part of the healing process is what matters. 

Through the Eyes of an Educator: What’s Not in the Books

The key to the lesson is learning to harness that shared emotion, to be there, to offer kindness, and to be a part of that help in whatever small way we can. Travel opens eyes, shifts perspectives, and shows us what a small part we are in the world. It reminds us to embrace gratitude, to do our part to lift others up, and to offer that helping hand whenever we can.

Through the Eyes of an Educator: What’s Not in the Books

How do we pass that on? How do we make sure that we focus as much if not more on those soft, non-quantifiable skills as we do on those we can quantify? How do we gear our lessons to include the emotional intelligence and concepts like empathy, character, and kindness along with our physics, social studies, and maths? 

Through the Eyes of an Educator: What’s Not in the Books

It’s our words and actions that matter. 

It’s our responses more than our reactions that matter. It’s our choices of what is rewarded, what is seen, what is elevated, and what is praised that matters. If we infuse those same lessons from kindergarten, yet elevate them to the various grade levels and courses, we’ll be sure to follow through with those character lessons throughout a child’s entire educational experience. Perhaps it’s the awards for character, the ones for the best helper, or the scholarship for consistent acts of kindness. Perhaps it’s building on mentoring, focusing on being of service and instilling the benefits of giving back to community at an early age. Or perhaps it’s elevating empathy to an equitable honor as others handed out in traditional school communities. Whether it’s a sticker, a ribbon, a medal or an acknowledgement of some other form - the significance is that each child learns that not only is it important to work hard, but it’s equally important to be that good person, open your heart to others and learn to foster, notice and embrace that shared emotion.

There will always be difficulty, destruction, and despair in the world, but, if we look hard enough, we’ll see acts of kindness each and every day. 

Through the Eyes of an Educator: What’s Not in the Books

Every act, no matter how small, is one that reminds us that it matters, that it connects our global community, and that each helpful act makes something or someone a little bit better in a small way. 

2020 needs more kindness–and it’s up to us to ensure that our next generation knows that, embraces it, and shares the mantra that Ellen closes her show with each day: ‘be kind to one another’. With that in mind, I’ll keep taking my guidance from the man who helped to change children’s television programming and the one who touched our souls with educational and empathetic puppets. I want to be one of those helpers and instill in others the same. 

Let’s not only ‘look for those helpers’…let’s become them.

Through the Eyes of an Educator: What’s Not in the Books

 

Stacey Ebert, our Educational Travels Editor, is a traveler at heart who met her Australian-born husband while on a trip in New Zealand. Stacey was an extracurricular advisor and taught history in a Long Island public high school for over fifteen years, enjoying both the formal and informal educational practices. After a one year 'round the world honeymoon, travel and its many gifts changed her perspective. She has since left the educational world to focus on writing and travel. She is energetic and enthusiastic about long term travel, finding what makes you happy and making the leap. In her spare time she is an event planner, yogi, dark chocolate lover, and spends as much time as possible with her toes in the sand.

Check out her website at thegiftoftravel.wordpress.com for more of her travel musings.

 

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