All We Need is a Little Empathy

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This blog post is a response for the Ontario Extend Technologist module.

” You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view – until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

– Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird

When I first started my empathy map, I used my students as the subjects but decided that I would switch the subjects of my empathy map to faculty. I feel that I have a great deal of empathy for students; this is something I’ve worked on for over a decade while in education. However, I find myself (at times) less empathetic when it comes to colleagues – crazy, right?! When I hear, “I don’t have time do attend that PD session,” I wonder if they truly don’t have time. I often see the same faculty over and over because they are trying new things in their classrooms or they are looking for a solution to a challenge they are facing in their classroom; but where are the faculty I never see?

In order to truly understand why some faculty don’t attend PD sessions or refuse to do any work beyond their SWF or why faculty seem to separate themselves from staff/admin, I had to ‘climb into their skin and walk around in it’. I had to listen closely – and listen without judgement. Here’s the empathy map I created after listening to faculty:

Empathy Map

This empathy map exercise really helped me to listen more closely to what faculty were saying, thinking, feeling, and hearing. I get it – they are overworked and underappreciated. It’s hard to have motivation to do more when you are already stretched thin and your hard work goes unnoticed. It’s hard to trust administrators when you have been treated poorly in the past. It is hard to find time for PD when you don’t have time!

I feel that faculty will access PD when they have time to and they will implement those practices and/or suggestions in their classes if the suggestions fit with their teaching style or philosophy. The key now is to create those learning objects/sessions/workshops in a manner that allows faculty to access them when they have time (perhaps in the evening or on weekends); this should include online webinars, videos, and content.

Empathy is a skill that can be learned. The New York Times has a great article “How to be More Empathetic” that gives ideas on how you can develop your empathy skills.

To be clear: I have a great deal of respect for my colleagues (past and present). Many of them work tirelessly to ensure students get the best out of their education. They often go above and beyond for their students!

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