Thursday, January 23, 2020

"Empathy is seeing with the eyes of another . . ." Alfred Adler

During the 35 years that I taught at North Allegheny Intermediate High School, a good friend was a health teacher, with a wonderful lesson about empathy.  Our building was just two grades - 9 and 10 - and Health was required for one semester in 9th grade.  If you have taught high school, you know that 9th graders are very impetuous and even more impatient, but Debbie Stackrow taught the kids about being patient with the elderly, which in Pittsburgh, PA, is the largest population in our demographic.  She had a variety of activities for this lesson, but I am focusing on just one. 

As I recall, the kids had to wear glasses with some masking tape on the lenses and just a little window to see through (mimicking cataracts and macular degeneration); their fingers were taped together to promote immobility (arthritis); and I think some had to use a walker or cane, with hard kernels of corn in their shoes (joint pain/arthritis.).  The students were asked to pretend "pay" a pretend "cashier" from a small change purse while wearing the glasses and using the taped fingers and holding the cane, which took much more time than they expected, and the whole thing was as frustrating for the payee as it was for the payer.  Suddenly, the students in the classroom FELT what is was like to have those problems that strap the elderly population, and it was a true moment of awakening for everyone.

After the activity, the students discussed their frustration of having the faux handicaps of old age, as well as the manner in which they (the students) reacted to older people when they encountered them in everyday life.  Debbie gave her classes so much to think about from that lesson. Oh, the power of a good teacher!

I sort of had to laugh at myself this week as I thought about my school days teaching and Debbie's lesson.  I have been having terrible knee pain for 6 months, which has now become even worse.  In fact, walking is such a difficulty,  I found myself leaning on a cane to walk into the doctor's office, and using a walker while wearing a splint on the way out.  Suddenly, I had young people in my path who "made way" for my temporary walker.  They were perfectly appropriate, but Debbie's lesson immediately came to mind, as today was my first time as a challenged older adult.  I never thought I would be old enough to need a cane or a walker!

My mother taught my brothers and me to honor our elders and to help them as best we could. I have always practiced the Golden Rule and empathy, and today I was the receiver of the that empathy from others.   

Despite the political climate in America, I continue to believe that people are good at heart.  

I am now on an anti-inflammatory medication and my knee is doing a little better.  I have an MRI on Monday, and I have ditched the cane, but what a lesson to remember.  Empathy is so important - and our world would be so much better if everyone practiced empathy. 

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!
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