The March Slice of Life Challenge is hosted by Two Writing Teachers .
This beautiful Sunday morning, I happened across two social network posts that linked up in their message and meaning, and have me thinking ever since. First, there is was thought from Diane Mayr on Facebook referencing this article about poverty and inequality in American society today:
I don’t think anyone who reads this will come away without realizing we all need to look a bit closer and adjust our attitudes. I was at a workshop today in which the leader spoke about compassion. Compassion is needed, but not as much as a good job, money, recognition as a fellow human being, and some hope that things will get better.
And then there was this wonderful picture that Colby Sharp Tweeted from the MIRA convention at which everyone seems to be learning so much (and having such fun – note to self, go next year)”:
Compassion and empathy. How much is innate, something one either has a capacity for…or not. How much can we learn through our experiences, our openness to the experiences of others – but, then again, is that openness really also a question of an innate quality that we possess, that we can be open to learning from the suffering of others?
I am thinking about the power of Wonder – the way my kids learn so much from Auggie , Via, and their friends. We are in their hearts and souls, experiencing their challenges, every step of the way. It’s no wonder that I catch my kids wiping away tears during our readaloud, or when they’re scrunched up in their favorite reading spots, completely into the story. And, when they discuss Wonder, there is again that sense of connecting with Auggie and Via, of being moved by their challenges.
Somehow, I don’t get the same reaction when I try to “teach” compassion, or empathy, or sensitivity, or even responsibility. These are the moments when I see something disturbing happening in my classroom, the lunchroom, or the hallway, and talk to my kids about what I noticed, what they could learn from the moment. They listen, and in their shifting glances and awkward shuffling around, I know that they hear me – they understand that they shouldn’t have used that particular word, made that particular gesture, decided to exclude that particular classmate. They love me, they want to listen to me, they want me to believe that they have heard me. But I don’t know that I’ve reached into their hearts…that I’ve inspired them.
It’s the same thing, I feel, with the visual guides to empathetic behavior that I have all over my classroom, things such as:
We make note of these, and from time to time I reference them in our lessons. But, sometimes, I feel that my kids see these posters without really thinking about their message – they are there to say “oh, this is a nice thought” as opposed to “this is the way I want to live my life, be as a person.” They become merely decoration.
Which brings me back to Palacio’s idea of inspiring empathy. Auggie’s story, and those of others like Malala Yousafzai, Solomon Northrup, Iqbal Masif, and Ryan White, can inspire our kids (and ourselves) to empathy, and living an empathetic life. These stories bring tears to the eyes of my kids…they inspire them…and, sharing them allows us to do what Diane was talking about in her post – to cultivate ” recognition as a fellow human being”.
We need more Auggies to share with our kids…..