Empathy means being in tune with how others feel. In other words, it is the ability to recognize and feel the emotions of people you interact with, irrespective of the situation. It need not necessarily be a sad situation but could be just any situation, and if you are able to feel what others are thinking or feeling in that situation, you’re empathetic.
Empathy usually increases on average as kids begin growing up. However, the one phase, which is the adolescents is when empathetic skills are known to reduce, but they bounce back! A little schooling on empathy can help adolescents touch base with their emotions as well as that of their peers. Focusing on these groups of individuals who tend to lose their empathetic skills, we at theHighSchooler have curated this article for you to help these young individuals keep their empathy on a high with ten activities. Read on to know more!
Why should empathy be taught at schools?
It is natural for some students to be empathetic while others may find it hard. Also, as previously stated, adolescents tend to become less empathetic during these years when their hormones are making the decisions for them.
In order to take control of all of this, it is necessary that schools focus on teaching empathy to students. Students who lack empathy may display one or more of the following:
- Being quick to judge others without putting themselves in the other’s shoes.
- Criticizing too quickly and often.
- Having difficulty in making friends.
- Not taking responsibility when at fault.
- Blaming one another.
- Having the feeling of entitlement.
- Not being a part of celebrations.
- Not being able to praise others for their accomplishments.
Significance of teaching empathy
Besides cultivating and instilling empathy in every student, there are some changes that follow when schools focus on teaching and promoting empathetic behavior among them. These changes are beneficial for the school to become more approachable and a better place.
- Cultivation of a positive classroom culture
A classroom is a diverse environment. Students from various backgrounds come together for the sole purpose of educating themselves. Such being the scenario, it is essential that every student feels empowered. For this, students must feel approachable. They must be able to approach their teachers and one another.
Empathy education can help them achieve this. They can understand each other, and their teachers. They can develop friendships and bonds, and can also work seamlessly when it comes to working together in a team. The cultivation of these relationships based on positivity develops trust, which is essential in the long run!
- Makes good leaders
A leader always moves with his team. Every action he takes is a well-thought step that is beneficial for his team, without whom, he is a leader to nobody. A leader understands his team members, feels their emotions, and responds to them empathetically.
Hence, being empathetic gives rise to great leaders! Of course, empathy is not the only quality but is one of the most important qualities of a leader. For the same, High school students can also take a leadership quiz and discover their inner leader.
- Creates an inclusive society.
When students are empathetic, they tend to be friendlier and more approachable than everyone else. Considering the long run, students who are more empathetic may tend to be better adults who believe in a socially inclusive society that promises equality across all means. Thus, they may live more collectively and encourage everyone else to be inclusive of each other.
Having discussed why it is necessary that schools focus on teaching empathy, here are some fun activities that teachers can engage the students with, to teach them about empathy and make them empathetic!
Activities to boost empathy in high schoolers!
Read on to find out a list of 8 unique empathy-instilling activities for high schoolers!
1. Empathy Dumb charades
Just like in traditional dumb charades, divide the students into two groups. Choose one student at random from group A. Ask students from group B to secretly tell the name of a movie to the student of group A, and the students must act out the movie. However, set the following boundary conditions that the student must abide by while acting:
- The students must act out the ending of the movie, which means, they must act out the emotion associated with it – happy, sad, scared, kind, etc.
- The student must act out a famous scene from the movie. He must enact the scene and ensure to also play out the emotions.
2. Movie week!
Time for some fun and entertainment whilst students do not miss out on the empathy factor. In this simple activity, you can show students any famous or iconic movie. The movie genre can be anything – spy, sci-fi, thriller, romance, etc. After the movie, you can ask the students some questions along these lines:
- Which character do you resonate the most with, and why?
- What did you learn from the movie?
- What does the ‘X’ character teach you?
- What is an alternate ending for the movie you would have preferred?
You can add more and more questions to the list. Alternatively, you can ask the students to write down the answers to these questions as a ‘movie review.’
3. Empathy scavenger hunt!
In this innovative scavenger hunt, you could divide students into groups and give them clues about Mother Nature. The clues could be based on things we see in nature such as the river (symbolizing calmness), the Sun (symbolizing positive and happy vibes), the trees (symbolizing altruism), the Sunflowers (symbolizing how one must be attracted towards positivity, ie, the Sun) and more.
Since this is for high school, ensure that you make the clues a little mind-bending. Through this activity, the students are exposed to all the qualities that nature around them possesses and they get to brush up on their empathetic side as well.
4. It is ‘share your story’ time!
What better than adding a personal touch to the activity? Ask students to share a story inspired by their personal life with the class. It must be on the grounds of empathy. Ask them to narrate incidents that created a mark or left an impression on them. Ask them follow-up questions if you wish to make it more interesting. You could ask questions such as the following:
- If given a chance, would you want to relive this moment?
- If given a chance, would you want to do any of the moments differently?
- If given a chance, would you rather be someone else in this entire incident?
5. The reaction quiz
In this simple yet fun activity, give students random scenarios and ask them how they would react. These scenarios can be inspired by movies, books, memoirs, or real-life incidents. In the case of books and movies, you could set conditions such as Your reaction must be different from what has been pictured in the movie or the book.
In the case of real-life scenarios, you could ask students how will they react in the following situation: How will you feel if your purse/wallet is lost? Or How would you feel and react if you found out you stood first in a competition?
6. Be the interviewer
Divide the students into pairs where one student gets to be the interviewer, and the other has to be the interviewee. Interviews are one of the best ways of understanding the life of another person.
The dreams, goals, aspirations, strengths, weaknesses, expectations, and a lot more are described in an interview and it is indeed a great way to reflect empathy. Taking turns to be the interviewer, students can ask questions and reflect upon the answers shared by each other.
7. Be the secret admirer!
In this simple thanksgiving activity, all students must do is write a thank-you note for one of their peers. This note can be short and sweet or descriptive about why the student is thankful to his or her peers. This activity will help the students be reminded of a time a sweet gesture from a fellow student helped them in some or the other way.
It will also remind the other student of a time when she or he was helpful to someone. Writing a thank you note helps students practice gratitude and be grateful for the kindness activities others have shown towards them
8. Find the solution!
Divide the students into groups of 4-5 members each and ask them to pick up a social issue. They need to come up with a strategy of how they are going to solve the issue, along with the measures they take, and the deadlines to implement the same.
The solution must be as realistic as possible. In this way, students will actually get to the root cause of the issue and they will empathize with those affected by the issue.
Summing it up!
When schools help students develop their empathetic skills, they indeed prepare them to be individuals who can perceive others’ feelings and emotions. They prepare these students such that they go out and be the best version of themselves and make the world a better place to live. They tend to become better citizens, employees, and great leaders!
- Kim, E. J., Son, W., Park, S. K., Chung, S., Ghim, R., Lee, S., Lee, I., Shin, J., Kim, S., Ju, G., Park, H., & Lee, J. (2020). Cognitive and Emotional Empathy in Young Adolescents: An fMRI Study. Journal of the Korean Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 31(3), 121-130. https://doi.org/10.5765/jkacap.200020