The Superpower of Empathy – A Gift to the World
My weekend shopping ritual began as I walked through the sliding doors of my local Walmart. The usual took place – a Walmart greeter said, “good morning” and I selected the lucky shopping cart that will have the pleasure of carrying around our weekly food supply. As I began pushing my cart, the soulful voice of Anita Baker was bellowing out of the store’s speakers. She sang of kindness, compassion, and caring – love was in the air.
As I sang with Anita, my mind drifted to my adult children. I started to ask myself, did I do a good enough job teaching them about kindness? Did I effectively explain to them the importance of understanding the importance of seeing things from a different perspective?
I didn’t know why, but Anita stirred up within me memories of trying my best to explain to my sons that emotional connection called empathy. A word I wasn’t too familiar with back then as a young dad, but I knew that it was an important concept for my boys to understand. The superpower that can enhance the quality of interactions with others as we try and understand the world through a different set of lenses.
Fast forward a few decades later and I find myself still actively involved in empowering others to understand the superpower of empathy. However, I’m not doing it as a parent but as an early childhood educator and trainer. There is no denying that what began as teaching two curious young boys evolved into providing professional development to hundreds of early childhood educators. Providing them with the tools, resources, and teaching strategies to bring the concept of empathy to life in their early learning classrooms.
Early childhood educators are busy each day with providing young children with activities and lessons that prepare them with reaching developmental milestones and school readiness. However, early childhood educators are also responsible for infusing in children’s daily activities an understanding of what empathy looks, sounds, and feels like. According to the article, Promoting Empathy and Kindness in Young Children, providing children with several opportunities to experience what kindness looks and feels like when displayed between people in a classroom community.
"At times, it may seem like the faith of our society rests in the hands of early childhood educators."
At times, it may seem like the faith of our society rests in the hands of early childhood educators. As a matter of fact, it does. We are the architects of tomorrow. Architects who are preparing young children for the types of interactions they can have with others that are meaningful and impactful. We have the unique opportunity to provide young children with numerous experiences for them to practice, practice, and practice that superpower of empathy.
Another Valentine’s Day has come and gone, but it is never too late to reflect on how we are using the classroom curriculum, teaching strategies, and daily interactions to support children’s understanding of empathy. It is never too late to reevaluate the ways we are teaching our children how to notice, share, understand, and consider how others feel.
We are fortunate to have a league of champions in our early learning classrooms that spend their day shaping our future. A future that can be kinder, more thoughtful, and filled with people that along the way learned that superpower called empathy. Let’s make it a priority to share the superpower of empathy throughout the year.
~Jerry Graham, SBVP VQB5 Specialist