Our BCS Moral Compass speaks to skills such as positive attitude, honesty & integrity, respect & kindness, and responsibility & accountability; all skills the help build empathy in each of us. An article by Hunter Gehlbach in Phi Delta Kappan entitled Learning to Walk in Another’s Shoes the author outlines the importance of infusing perspective taking into our lesson as a way to build this core social-emotional skill in the students we serve. This skill is directly aligned with our empathetic habit of the month: empathetic people understand the needs of others. In his article, Gehlbach contends that if we focus on “a single, teachable capacity that anchors almost all of our social interactions: social perspective-taking, or the capacity to make sense of others’ thoughts and feelings” the lasting effect in the growth and development of students can be profound. He suggests that perspective taking “allows us to interpret the motivations and behaviors of our friends and neighbors, or to see situations from the point of view of strangers, or to understand and appreciate values and beliefs that diverge from our own. Without it, we cannot empathize, engage in moral reasoning, love, or even hold a normal conversation.” Gehlbach believes perspective-taking can be infused into anywhere in our schools and encourages us to consider these key points:
- Make it a classroom expectation for students to talk about others’ perspectives.
- Encourage students to be social detectives, not judges.
- Provide low-stakes opportunities for practice.
“Once in the habit of trying to gauge other people’s ways of looking at the world,” Gehlbach concludes, “they will inevitably become more empathetic, more understanding, and more caring; they will become more thoughtful about how to navigate relationships; and they will become more likely to reach out across cultural groups rather than withdrawing into their own clique.” Wow! Behold the empathetic power of perspective taking in understanding the needs of others!
Check out Hunter Gehlbach in this 9-minute talk, “The Three Fundamentals of Social-Emotional Learning” presented as part of “Fast & Curious: ED Talks from UC Santa Barbara’s Gevirtz School”.