I’ve pondered this blog post for a long time and never found the right words. I doubt I will find them tonight but the challenge seemed the perfect opportunity to hash out the details. Over the half mark of the 10 posts in 10 day challenge. YEAH!
I remember having one of those reflective AHA moments the first time I watched Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED Talk The Danger of a Single Story. I know her story is so powerful that most can find a part to connec with. I most identified with her second story of the boy that worked in her home.
I think we have all had that moment where we have tried to remind learners of the wealth of resources they have at their disposal and the waste of resources like the food on their plate. Every comment creates a greater divide between US and THEM. Chimamanda mentions just such a story as she shares about the boy that worked in her home. With the constant reminders of “don’t you know…”, Chimamanda, as many of us have, had created her own unhappy story for the boy which differed so greatly from his version of the story.
That line between sympathy and empathy can be so thin and also so easy to step over. Once every other month I cook for a local food bank. It’s a whirlwind of an evening. I find that I usually leave with more than I ever provide. In my interactions there are some clients that are so easy to empathize with: I can see my uncle, parents, brothers in them. Sometimes I even see myself. Then there are other clients where I just feel sorry for them and I have to catch myself. Am I listening to understand or just feeling a sense of pity? Was my bias or experience affecting my behaviour/response?
Then I reflect upon the idea of bringing empathy to the classroom and I seem to be left with even more questions than set answers. How do we make sure as we help learners be global citizens that show empathy and not just sympathy? Can we really teach empathy or do we learn it through modelling? How can we break up such a huge topic or is it just a constant conversation?
Maybe it’s not as complicated as I think it is. Maybe social justice education can be boiled down to Cinderella’s quote (I can’t believe I’m quoting a fairly tale): Be Kind & Courageous. Be kind and actively listen to others and courageous enough to stand up when you know something it’s wrong. Here’s to a week of being kind and courageous!