Sunday, September 21, 2014

Empathy is about standing in someone else's shoes, feeling with his or her heart, seeing with his or her eyes. Not only is empathy hard to outsource and automate, but it makes the world a better place. Daniel H. Pink

Because I clearly remember how time consuming it is to be a teacher, when I see something interesting or eye catching that deals with education, I like to write about it in this blog for my teacher friends.  I was in Cleveland this weekend for the wedding of my nephew, and I saw a great story on Channel 19.  I have included the link to the video at the end of this piece.

The story was geared to elementary students, especially on the playground.  No, it is not a new type of slide or monkey bars, but it does create fun.  The new addition is called a Buddy Bench. Just what is the purpose of the Buddy Bench? Essentially, it is a place for kids to sit when they need a friend, need a playmate, or need to talk. The Buddy Benches in the story are specific to grade levels on the playground, and the children seem to be very receptive to the idea. The child interviews in the story are quite candid (as child interviews tend to be- think of Art Linkletter or Bill Cosby), and I was impressed enough to write this blog about this terrific concept.

Although I never taught elementary school, I see great lessons to be learned from this Buddy Bench; lessons that I believe would continue through middle school and high school.  When a student sits on the Bench, the student who joins him or her is really learning about empathy.  To me, the scenario stirs this kind of a conversation in the minds of the other students: "Someone is alone on the bench, and he needs a friend right now.  I think I will sit on the bench with him and find out why this person is alone."  I believe the Bench also promotes better communication skills which makes for better inclusion in the culture of the school.  It seems to me that learning these lessons about getting along with others and respecting the feeling of others early in life might make for fewer bullying incidents, which could make for fewer school shootings and stabbings.  A stretch?  I don't think so.  

I urge you to take a look at this television segment.  The children are so receptive to the idea of the Buddy Bench and the lessons they are learning.  Maybe the Buddy Bench should  be at all elementary school playgrounds.  We learn about relationships from our childhood friends, and we carry what we learned well into our adulthood.  By the way, I still have some of my childhood friends.  Do you?

As always, I welcome your comments or suggestions.

Here is the link to the story:  

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