Empathy to Advocacy
This is the latest in a series of blogs from the teacher cohort.
By Joseph Rosi
Advocacy is at the heart of our classroom. Often times, to my frustration, I try to provide opportunities to our students to work collaboratively, think critically, and pursue lines of inquiry that are of interest to them. In the daily lives of 5th graders they’re not offered many choices or chances to have their voice heard. This oftentimes makes dragging motivation and emotions out of them a challenging task.
And then, on a day when I was actually not in the classroom, an incredible instance of student voice and advocacy happened in the least likely of places. Typically my classroom is chaotic when a visitor is substitute teaching. Even the most well mannered kid tends to slack off when there’s a sub. Generally I picture it something like this cartoon:
One of my students who has some confidence issues had confided in two boys that he felt like he wasn’t good at anything. He was frustrated and uncomfortable with all the writing, math, and constant academic pressure. His grades had been falling and I’ve noticed that he seemed less engaged in his work or our discussions.
ON THEIR OWN and with a foreign teacher in the class, the boys created a greeting card with construction paper. They went around discreetly to each member of the class and asked that they write words of encouragement to the student about his abilities. Some kids offered simple “We love that you’re on Team Apollo” notes and others wrote more specifically to his value in our classroom community.
These are little boys! The same kids who get food all over my floor, who scream about the pirates giving up a last minute home run, and whose desks frequently look like a dumpster fire. Those boys stepped out of their comfort zone and realized they needed to help a friend in need. Giving the card to the affected student really turned his day around.
Again, all of this happened under the radar. When I heard the story from other students it was all I had to not burst into tears.
THIS IS FLUENCY. This is all our core cohort values and what we want from our kids. Empathy and understanding is how we drive motivated learners and future leaders; And something, at least on this day, that I can say our group of students did remarkably.
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