Monday, December 14, 2015

"Empathy is a skill like any other human skill. If you get a chance to practice, you can get better at it." - Prof. Simon Baron Cohen

Although I am now working as a writer, speaker, and entrepreneur, I do not think I will ever be able to stop being the teacher I was for 37 years.  The adage. "Once a teacher, always a teacher" could be my mantra, and I am OK with that.  I sill LOVE teaching!

I find my inspiration for writing these weekly posts in everyday living, stories of the past, the media, and from friends.  I like  sharing a truth or experience from my own life, or sometimes, teaching a lesson.  I have written many times in the past about both kindness and empathy, and I think I found exactly the right story to puts those two qualities in perfect sync. 

Perhaps you have seen the story on the news about the 8 year old girl from Schenectady, NY, named Sa'fyre Terry who lost her entire family in a fire, and she herself, was badly burned and disfigured from the fire. She even lost a hand and a foot to infections from her numerous reconstructive surgeries; and she recently had a tracheal tube removed so that she can speak again.  Sa'fyre lives with her aunt, who has become her guardian.  The aunt bought a Christmas card tree for her at a thrift store,  and Sa'fyre asked if, perhaps, she might receive enough cards to fill the tree if her aunt posted her picture and her special wish for Christmas cards on Facebook.

The response to Sa'fyre's request has been nothing short of earth-shattering! Albany News 10 reported that a two-ton tractor trailer truck delivered over 18,000 cards and letters and 400 packages to the little girl - her mail for one day!  As I read through the various reports on Sa'fyre, I found that many classroom teachers made writing letters and cards to the young burn victim into a class project.  I applaud those teachers, as I do believe that empathy can and must be taught.  In our computer-driven and fast-paced world, it is important for children (and adults) to stay connected to other human beings, and this little girl provided the impetus for teachers to share some important lessons. Classroom teachers made lesson plans for their students by sharing Sa'fyre's story; helping the students to feel her pain and sense of aloneness (her father died while attempting to save her, and all of her siblings died in the fire); and further stirring students' feelings of empathy by presenting and discussing the idea of losing all of one's family members and possessions. Additionally, these teachers taught the lesson of kindness, as they had their students reach out to young Sa'fyre through their sincere words and handmade cards, all with the purpose of comforting the little girl. If I were still in the classroom, I would have taken time out of class time to share these kinds of teachable moments. I hope the teachers also talked about the wonderful feeling that happens inside a person when reaching down to help someone up! 

Sa'fyre has already received teddy bears, handmade jewelry, a tiara, stuffed animals, books, and more. I must confess that I was so taken with this story that I sent Sa'fyre a funny reindeer card along with a copy of my new book, GRADY GETS GLASSES.  I hope the rhymes and the rabbit will lift her spirits- just like writing her a note and sending it to her lifted mine!  Her address is Sa'fyre Terry  P.O. Box 6126 Schenenctady, NY  12306

I am so happy to share this story of empathy, kindness, hope, and inspiration with you during this holiday season. 

If you would like to see more about 8 year old Sa'fyre, follow these links: 

As always, I welcome your comments or suggestions. 

Rittman Publishing, LLC ®

I LOVE writing. And I love writing children's books- my newest passion. Although it will be a ton of work, I am looking forward to selling my books.  Since I was a secondary teacher, I know that I have much to learn about elementary students, and I will have to follow my own advice and be my genuine self.  However, I also know that I am passionate about helping kids who have to wear glasses, and that GRADY GETS GLASSES sends a positive message. I am willing to work hard and do all the things that also made me a successful teacher for 37 years. I remain inspired! 

Teacher friends- let me know if you want me to read GRADY GETS GLASSES at your school. I am willing to come in to discuss the creative writing process, why writing is important, and personal fulfillment through writing, along with reading my book.  I would appreciate the exposure, and I would make signed copies available for purchase in your classrooms following the reading.  Please email me at .  The website IS UP AND RUNNING!!!.  Signed copies ARE available!   

Please like Dede's new page Grady Gets Glasses for updates about her children's book. 

Connect with Dede!

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Visit Dede's webpage for complete details on her award-winning book, STUDENT TEACHING: THE INSIDE SCOOP FROM A MASTER TEACHER.  Signed copies are available 

Dede is the co-host of The Total Education Q & A, which can be heard on Blogtalk Radio at

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