Thursday, October 17, 2019

"I believe empathy is the most essential quality of civilization." Roger Ebert


In its simplest terms, empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. It seems to me that the ability to have empathy for others should be innate, but I would be wrong.  I do know that after teaching English and theater for 37 years, students can be taught how to feel empathy, and I am not the only one who believes that to be true. 

ROOTS OF EMPATHY is a program that happens in a fourth grade classroom every three weeks.  Baby Merritt is taken into the classroom, and through their interaction with a baby, students are learning to be kinder toward each other. Sounds crazy, right?  The prescribed curriculum teaches the kids how to treat each other by teaching them how to interact appropriately with a baby.  

The program ROOTS OF EMPATHY began in Canada 23 years ago, and the program is now used in 14 countries. Studies conclude that the program increases empathy and kindness and lowers aggression by a significant percentage.  Studies also suggest that the effects of the program can be seen years after the participants concluded the program. Mary Gordon, creator of the ROOTS OF EMPATHY Program, says that bullies lack the ability to feel what others are feeling, and her program changes that. The curriculum begins with asking students questions about the baby - and turns those questions into reflective questions that promote empathy.  For example, a question might be, "Why do you think the baby is crying?  Do you think it 's because you are all new to him and he feels afraid?  Have YOU ever been the new person in the room?  How did you feel?  How do you think kids feel when they come to a new school in the middle of the year?"  These questions help the students to put themselves into the shoes of another, and empathy appears.

I am a huge fan of this program.  I think the approach of using a baby as the teacher is pure genius.  

Here is the link to the TODAY Show story - and it is well worth your time! 

It seems to me that this is a very real and simple approach to teaching anti-bullying, in a manner that students can really understand. Teaching empathy can eradicate bullying. 

As always, I welcome your comments and suggestions. 
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Please invite Grady Gets Glasses (and me) into your school.  if you are not in the Pittsburgh area, we do virtual field trips with a group called Field Trip Zoom.  and a company called GRADY GETS GLASSES was the winner of Best New Children's Book 2016 and 2018 (new edition) from The Authors' Zone.Grady also won a 2018 prestigious Moonbeam Award for Best Children's Book with Merchandise.

Visit Dede's webpage for complete details on her award-winning book, STUDENT TEACHING: THE INSIDE SCOOP FROM A MASTER TEACHER. Many colleges have made the book required readingSigned copies are available Dede is also a national speaker on The Three C's for Classroom success: Confidence, communication, and Creativity; Avoiding Teacher burnout; and many other inspirational topics. 

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! 

Elementary teachers in Western Pennsylvania and beyond - I am willing to come into your classroom in person or as a virtual field trip through a group called Field Trip Zoom.  Check them out! 

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 now has plush Grady bunnies for sale!
 Please like Dede's new page Grady Gets Glasses for updates about her children's book. 

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