Empathy Not Apathy: 4 Tips for Creating a More Compassionate Classroom

Sometimes we get stuck in our heads and don’t think about others, and sometimes we get stuck in our hearts and don’t feel others. Here are four tips for feeling others in the classroom:

1. Remember to check in: I literally touch every student every day. The Teacher’s Union says I shouldn’t touch students because if one students complains I may have a lawsuit on my hands, but I am not afraid of no stinking lawsuits! Besides if I can’t touch them what the hell am I here for? I am not a robot! “You stand there, I stand here. Mind-meld!”…Students need to be touched, slapped on the back, hugged and even tickled in the kidneys. The union is full of worrywart lawyer-wannabes and old hags rotting in chairs thinking of all the bizarre things that teachers might do. (Although be careful about gently drawing her silky blonde hair over an elfin ear with your finger because that can be misinterpreted).

2. Informal Conferencing: Find a quiet, dark place alone and tell each kid what you really think about him or her. Don’t hold back. Be honest and speak from your heart. Kids are like tiny vulnerable grownups who crave the Truth about themselves. Brink Kleenex (if they cry you will feel even more compassionate toward them). With one well-placed word you can change the direction of a child’s life forever! It makes me dizzy!

3. Ask Better Questions: Don’t ask, “How are you analyzing that source?” or “What is the main idea that you are developing for your conclusion?” Nobody cares about those things and not caring is the opposite of compassion. Instead ask: “How are you hanging, bro?” and really, really mean it.

4. Express Belief in Student Abilities: I tell all of my students that they are great and when I conference individually (see #2) I tell each student that they are my personal favorite. Now if students think that you like them they will like you back–its a law of the universe– and research shows that students learn more from teachers that they like.

First Light


6 thoughts on “Empathy Not Apathy: 4 Tips for Creating a More Compassionate Classroom

  1. Pingback: Happy Pancake Poem! | litadoolan

  2. I admire your enthusiasm and I, too, tried to inspire them and encourage them when I was teaching. This litigious age has destroyed the compassionate touch of teachers because everyone’s afraid of threats or lawsuits. I remember how much a kind word and a gentle tap on the shoulder or hug meant when I was a child.


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