Building Empathy in the Classroom



Empathy: The Art of Listening
We generally want to respond when people speak to us. For example, someone says, “I’m so tired, I couldn’t get any work done.” Some typical responses listed below are often said with the best of intentions, but can unknowingly create distance and disconnection.
We call these empathy blockers.
• One-upping
“I’m so tired myself. I couldn’t get any work done either.”
• Advising / Fixing
“Maybe you should get more sleep.”
“Maybe you should get some vitamins.”
“Maybe you should…”
• Educating
“There’s a good book you should get on sleep and productivity.”
• Analyzing
“You know, this seems to be a pattern of yours.”
• Consoling
“That’s too bad. I’m sure things will go better tomorrow.”
• Discounting
“Okay, but shouldn’t you just be glad you have a job?”
Some things we can say to express empathy
• “I hear you.” Said with sincerity, meets a person’s need to be heard.
• “Tell me more.” Said with sincerity, shows you are really interested.
• “I don’t even know what to say right now, I’m just grateful you told me.”
When someone is in a difficult place, this may be all you have to say.
– Empathy is Being Interested Rather Than Being Interesting –


Upset feelings typically are attributed to a need not being met. Here is a handy cheat sheet for Feelings Associated with Met and Unmet Needs.


Activities and Worksheets

40 Kindness Activities & Empathy Worksheets for Students and Adults


Emotional Intelligence Activities For Teens

A Quick-Guide To Teaching Empathy In The Classroom

A Toolkit for Promoting Empathy in Schools


Empathy in the Classroom: Why Should I Care?

Principal Connection / Building Empathy in Schools -Thomas R. Hoerr

Building Empathy in Classrooms and Schools

how to build project making caring empathy and strengthen your school community


13 kids books to spark conversations about empathy Via Tinybop

10 Children’s Books That Teach Empathy  Via Self-Sufficient Kids

Death of a Pet


The death of a pet can be very difficult for a family to cope with emotionally. This post has some insights and tools to use with your children to help with the process of grieving the loss of a pet.


Why The Death Of A Pet Is Especially Devastating For Children


Kids and Dealing with the Death of a Pet


7 Ways Parents Can Help a Child Through the Grief Process

1. Do not trivialize the death of a pet. Children need time and opportunity to mourn. They need their parents to validate their feelings and understand how much they miss their pet, and they may need to miss a day of school or a soccer game. “Grief is appropriate,” Segal says. “It’s how we heal from losses. Your child’s grief is an indicator that your child has learned to love.”

2. Suggest different ways to remember the pet. Your child may want to draw pictures of the pet, make a scrapbook, or create a memory box. She may want to have some sort of memorial service. She may want to place photos and mementos in a special place. Planting a tree in memory of a pet can also be comforting, Sife says.

3. Let the child’s caregivers know about the death. Inform your child’s teacher, babysitter, piano teacher, and coach. Let anyone know who might otherwise be confused by your child’s sadness. Ask teachers if anything is coming up in the curriculum that might warrant preparation—for example, will your child be studying a novel that features a pet or a death?

4. Don’t rush to replace the pet. It’s tempting to rush out and get a new dog or cat. Your child may even ask to get a new pet right away. But explain that the family needs time to mourn the loss of the pet that died.

5. Read age-appropriate children’s books that deal with pet death. There are many options, including the classic Dog Heaven, by Cynthia Rylant; the tender and touching Murphy and Kate by Ellen Howard; and I’ll Always Love You, by Hans Wilhelm.

6. Let your child know it’s okay to talk about death and about the pet. If the mention of death makes you upset, your child may avoid the topic and hold his feelings in. Let your child know death is a part of life and that it’s okay to talk about it. Let him know he can talk about his beloved pet, and share your favorite happy memories of the pet with him.

7. Seek outside help if your child has a hard time coping. If your child is already dealing with stress such as divorce, a parent’s illness, difficulties at school, or a conflict with a close friend or sibling, the death of a pet can bring on a crisis, Sife says. A counselor, psychologist, or therapist may be able to help.

The stress of losing a pet and seeing your child so upset might make you wonder if a pet is worth the inevitable grief. But the process of grieving strengthens families, Segal says. “When something happens and we get through it, trust is built,” she says. “We shouldn’t take away the pain in life…the more your child feels, the better life will be. The more we feel, the more meaning we find in life.”

Dealing With a Pet’s Death for Kids of Different Ages

Children respond to death differently depending on their age. Here are some general ways children of different ages may react to a pet’s death, according to Wallace Sife, author of The Loss of a Pet and founder of theAssociation for Pet Loss and Bereavement.

  • Ages 2-3: At this age, children do not have the life experiences to give them an understanding of death. They should be told that the pet has died and will not return. Reassure your child that he did not do or say anything to cause the pet’s death. Maintain usual routines, and most young children will accept the loss without a lot of emotion.
  • Ages 4-6: Children have some understanding of death but may not comprehend the permanence of it. They may even think the pet is asleep or is continuing to eat, breathe, and play somewhere. Frequent, brief discussions about the pet’s death will allow your child to express her feelings and ask questions.
  • Ages 7-9: At this age, children know death is irreversible. They might not be afraid that they will die, but they may worry about the death of their parents. Your child may ask questions that seem morbid, which parents should answer with honesty. Their grief may manifest itself in misbehavior or antisocial behavior at school.
  • Ages 10-12: Children understand that death is natural, inevitable, and happens to all living things. They look to their parents as role models in how to react to death. At this age, children may cry a lot and need lots of comforting.
  • Teenagers: Children of this age group may show anything from an apparent total lack of concern to excessively emotional reactions. One day they want to be treated like an adult, and the next day they need to be reassured like a young child. If friends are supportive, it is much easier for them to deal with a loss.
  • Young adults: The loss of a pet for this age group can be particularly hard. Young adults may have feelings of guilt for abandoning their pets when leaving home for college, work, or marriage, and may be unable to return to the family home to say goodbye to the pet. Again, supportive friends and coworkers may help, as will allowing the individual to discuss and remember the pet with family members.



I Miss My Pet: A workbook for children about pet loss

My Pet is Gone

My Pet Died: A Coloring Book for Grieving Children $2.00

Books That Help Kids Cope

  1. I’ll Always Love You, by Hans Wilhelm. A boy and his pet dachshund grow up together, but one morning the dog doesn’t wake up. This tender book will touch any family who’s ever had to say goodbye to an old dog.
  2. The Tenth Good Thing About Barney, by Judith Viorst. After a little boy’s cat dies, the family plans a funeral, and the boy is asked to recall ten good things about his pet.
  3. When a Pet Dies, by Fred Rogers. This direct but sensitive book includes color photos of kids and encourages children to share their feelings of loss.Source


What teachers can do to support students living in poverty


Poverty is a difficult obstacle for learning students.

A New Majority Research Bulletin: Low Income Students Now a Majority in the Nation’s Public Schools


What you can do

• Operate like NASA – failure is not an option. If you cannot connect people or resolve a poverty issue, who in your network or community might be able to? Use an “If not me, then who?” approach.

• Build stronger partnerships. Poverty is complex and requires a comprehensive community-wide approach. Connect with other businesses, organizations, and individuals in the neighborhood who can help. Rely on your “full resource backpack,” an inventory of who in your community may be able to assist people in moving out of poverty.

• Learn proven strategies. In spite of the lack of education in our country about poverty, there are theories that provide strategies for breaking the iron cage of poverty. The following page outlines five theories and provide suggestions for how educators and others can break the barriers of poverty.

• Mentor. Take the time to build meaningful relationship with students



You can help your students who live in poverty by implementing some of these suggestions:

• When you suspect that their peers are taunting disadvantaged students, act quickly to stop the harassment.

• Students who live in poverty have not been exposed to broadening experiences such as family vacations, trips to museums, or even eating in restaurants. Spend time adding to their worldly experience if you want poor students to connect their book learning with real-life situations.

• Listen to your disadvantaged students. They need a strong relationship with a trustworthy adult in order to succeed.

• Work to boost the self-esteem of students who live in poverty by praising their school success instead of what they own.

• Provide access to computers, magazines, newspapers, and books so low-income students can see and work with printed materials. School may be the only place where they are exposed to print media.

• Keep your expectations for poor students high. Poverty does not mean ignorance.

• Don’t make comments about your students’ clothes or belongings unless they are in violation of the dress code.

• Students who live in poverty may not always know the correct behaviors for school situations. At home, they may function under a different set of social rules. Take time to explain the rationale for rules and procedures in your classroom.

• Be careful about the school supplies you expect students to purchase. Keep your requirements as simple as you can for all students.

• Arrange a bank of shared supplies for your students to borrow when they are temporarily out of materials for class.

• Do not require costly activities. For example, if you require students to pay for a field trip, some of them will not be able to go.

• If you notice that a student does not have lunch money, check to make sure that a free lunch is an option for that child.

• Be very sensitive to the potential for embarrassment in even small requests for or comments about money that you make. For example, if you jokingly remark, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch,” you could embarrass one of your low-income students.

• Make it clear that you value all of your students for their character and not for their possessions

Adapted from First-Year Teacher’s Survival Guide.


Educating Everybody’s Children (Book)

Poverty Myth (Article)

The Effects of Poverty on Teaching and Learning (great read)

Students in Poverty

Improving Education for Students with Learning Disabilities Living in Poverty

Concise Handout on Student Poverty*

Teaching Through Trauma: How poverty affects kids’ brains (Listen to the audio clip)

Effects of Poverty What Teachers Should Know (PowerPoint)

Teaching with Poverty in Mind (Book Review on PowerPoint)


 Empathy is a 21st century skill that our kids will need more and more of in order to make the most of their future. A lot of smart organizations, schools, and businesses are cultivating this skill set in their people. It helps people not only connect, but get to the deeper detailed aspects of issues. That empathetic connection gets to better outcomes.

Brené Brown on Empathy

A father told me a story the other day about how he was driving down the road with his son in the car and was cut off by another driver. He yelled out, “Hey Buddy watch your driving!” His son then said, “Dad what if they are just learning how to drive? Take it easy.” The Dad now with this new possibility found himself calm and move on from feeling angry.

My point is that we all deal with adversity, but how we filter that information can dramatically change your reaction. This boy showed his dad that showing empathy by considering the possibility that the driver who cut his dad off could be learning how to drive and be given some leeway. Seeing possibilities is liberating, try it!

Just a last thought about how to support empathy with your special little person. Some children at school who have a hard time working through social situations often time need social skills training. Here is a great worksheet to help with breaking down a social situation to make good decisions and more importantly a teachable moment for a student.

Click to access social-problem-solving-template.pdf