The word Empathy comes from Greek and means ‘what suffers’ or what is the same, the ability of a person to understand the emotions of another.
The concept of empathy is of great importance when you relate and interact with your students in the class. The better you understand them, the more you receive from them in return. This interpersonal intelligence, in the opinions of Howard Gardner, directly reverses many of the actions that your students are held during the school days.
Perhaps, you observed during your school years that there were teachers who could connect very quickly with students while others maintained a relationship with their students something more complicated. They were not connected with the students- with their emotions. These teachers were less empathetic.
Another aspect that should not be confused with the fact that- being an empathetic teacher has nothing to do with being a cool teacher or rolled teacher. This is not true at all. Empathy is something deeper sense to be “cool” or “rolled”. In fact, the teachers with good empathy can start a very good relationship with students.
Here are five simple but useful actions that can enhance empathy with your students:
- Learning the names. Knowing your students’ name is important. Sometimes we find some teachers who, after several months, still do not know the name of he/his students or confuse them regularly. Teachers might complain that they have many students and that takes the time to know all the names. That is not true. In a few days, you can get them all if you really want to. There are lots of tricks to learn the names of the students. Avoid calling your students by their last name. It has been observed that a lot of the students hate to be called by their last name. There may be several exceptions and in such cases the students can be called by the last names. But calling a student by his surname may create a rift between you and the student due to excessive formality.
- Have a good memory. Good memory is important for being empathetic to your students. Ask your students about the party weekend, congratulate them on the achievements, hear about their pets, show interest after an illness or accident. You will be surprised to see the happy faces of your students.
- Maintain eye contact. At the beginning or end of class, students approach you to ask a question very often. At that time if you only keep your eyes on school supplies and neglect showing the visual contact the student who speaks, then you miss many things. If you look to your student during his question, you will be able to capture student’s emotion more and understand what he is asking and also what he cannot ask but whirling in his mind.
- Listen rather than hear. Active listening is very crucial. HEAR is simply perceived sounds while LISTEN is to understand the speech. Listen to be empathetic.
- Change the closed questions to open questions. One factor that can help you empathize with your students is the way you ask questions. When interacting with a student, there is a difference between asking if you are concerned or to ask why is concerned. While the first question is answered with a simple yes or no, the latter implies a reason to create an emotional bond between you and the student must take advantage of.