Principal Interest

Un-forgetting ourselves – a key empathetic skill


I wonder what I was thinking, feeling, hoping, wondering…

A series of old photos recently surfaced, revealing some images from my past, ones that I should have known well. After all, they were photos of me. I was obviously there at the time, thinking and feeling all sorts of things, presumably. I found myself wondering about the world this cute little fella inhabited in Grade 2,1976. I wonder what I was thinking, feeling, hoping, wondering… Is it possible for teachers to truly empathize with our students when it is nearly impossible to recall how it felt to be one ourselves? This has been on my mind.

The challenge for us as teachers seems to be the difficulty of actually shedding our own feelings of security/insecurity, confidence/fear of failure, joy/sadness, hope/despair, vitality/lethargy and all the other complicated emotional continuums in which we exist as adults, which cloud our perspectives, making it difficult to concentrate on the feelings of the learner in our classroom. From empathy, comes compassion and respect and it is worth the effort, to try and remember what it must have been like. I think this will help. Pull out an old photo of yourself at school – see if you can remember. It’s hard, the un-forgetting, but worth it.