The best tool for surviving times of trouble and disruption? Empathy

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The best tool for surviving times of trouble and disruption? Empathy

April 01, 2020 - 23:09
The commentary below represents the ideas, observations and opinions of the author.

Editor's note: This message originally was posted on local Facebook group Moms & Dads of Homewood-Flossmoor on March 30. It is published here with permission.

Hi Moms and Dads ...

I hope everyone is staying healthy and sane during this crisis. I was just thinking about how much I love our community and how hard this is for everyone.

Ask any of my students and they will tell you that I have been on an "empathy" kick this year. I have come to believe it is the single greatest skill I can try to help my students understand, and more importantly practice.

J.R. Willard-Rose is a teacher and Theater Director at Homewood-Flossmoor High School. (Provided photo)

As we start to see how this quarantine affects our daily routines and all of the opinions, annoyances, judgments and criticism that come from it, please try to keep in mind that on the other end of those emotions are people. People just trying to figure out a new normal for themselves, their jobs, their families, their businesses and their lives. Along with that these people are scared, they are uncertain, they are worried and stressed, and some are sick.

I have seen some posts and comments online lately criticizing parenting skills because of the actions of children. Empathy means trying to calm your feelings, and understand that while we can recognize the actions of the kids were not the best decision, remember that we don't know all the details, all the facts, all the realities. We surely don't know what is going on in that home, what pressures they are dealing with. We don't know if the kid has a single mother who is working double shifts in a grocery store, etc. Try to find ways to help, not criticize.

On that note, I just want to take a minute to let you all know that in the upcoming months you may be confused, annoyed, critical and frustrated with the whole e-learning situation. I have already seen posts and comments from parents "wishing" teachers would do this or that, or the school district would do something differently.

I can assure you the school boards, administrators, teachers, and support staff of Districts 153 in Homewood, 161 in Flossmoor, and Homewood-Flossmoor High School District 233 have been working around the clock trying to abide by changing decrees from the state to make learning and engagement possible for your kids. But it is new. 

It is scary for us teachers. I have a master’s degree in Educational Technology, have been essentially paperless in my classroom at H-F for seven years now, and I am a tech coach at H-F. Nevertheless, I am still just figuring this all out, trying to see what works, and what doesn't. I have Zoom meetings scheduled for when my toddler naps and I am praying he stays down long enough so I can connect with my students! Let's hope.

And while we're hoping, let's embrace empathy, be kind and model those traits for our kids. We are all on the same ship right now (a big ship, with little tiny cabins — that we can't leave, but you get the idea).

Our community is strong because of its incredible people, and families. Let's show each other we care, we understand and while we may agree, we empathize. Together we can navigate these transitions into uncharted waters. As Melania Trump would say: "Be Best.”