Let’s Teach Empathy

Colleagues,

Teachers do a lot of things they aren’t paid to do — like teaching empathy.

We live in fraught times. The discourse among political leaders, talking heads and even some community and family members has broken down. As adult Americans, we hold strong convictions, but we sometimes don’t seek to understand others. That trickles down to our children. Teachers hear it every day: a remark or a snicker about a child with autism; an American history class debate that culminates in shouting and finger-pointing; a Friday night football game that turns ugly with deportation threats.

Strong convictions aren’t enough. Children must learn empathy. You can’t really understand the feelings or experiences of others from a slogan or sound bite. Empathy isn’t learned 140 characters at a time.

Fortunately, teachers teach it every day.

That’s why we’ve launched the A Mile In Our Shoes reading initiative in partnership with Teaching Tolerance and Donors Choose. A Mile In Our Shoes promotes empathy through reading. Through a collection of hand-picked Text Sets, students can read about different perspectives and lived experiences: rural communities and refugees, Native Americans and immigrants, veterans and Muslims, groundbreaking women and courageous people with disabilities, and much more.

Teaching empathy means having tough conversations that sometimes shine a light on parts of ourselves we’re not so proud of, which can make students defensive or angry. So we’ve partnered with Teaching Tolerance and other trailblazing organizations to provide professional development resources. We’re here to help you have safe, thoughtful conversations that your students will carry with them for the rest of their lives.

And to give you and your kids a little extra motivation, we’re holding a national reading drive with Donors Choose, as well as a growing list of NBA teams including the Golden State Warriors Community Foundation, to provide prizes and incentives for schools and students who read the most.

Empathy isn’t a skill you’ll see on a standardized test. Yet the ability to walk in another person’s shoes is one of the most important skills our children will learn from you.

Thank you, teachers. We’re walking right by your side.

Sincerely,

Matthew Gross
Founder & CEO