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David Newton-Dines

Managing Director, DJ Squared Limited

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Rate educators based on their empathy alone.

The only real measure of effectiveness regarding an educator is that they treat each child (from pre-school to university) individually.

If they do that, then that child will receive the very best education possible. Currently, too many educators take a formulaic approach and effectively blame the child if they don't understand.

By scoring educators based on their empathy, it removes the nonsense of cheating at annual tests simply to stay employed. Yes many would go, however, that might then mean that the lost vocational element of education might reemerge.

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  • May 5 2013: Everett, I agree empathetic & tough are not mutually exclusive. as personal styles they are orthogonal. You can be empathetic or not, and tough or not, and I guess the corelation might be quite low. My point is that not ALL teachers need to be empathetic, so long as students find 1 or 2 they can relate to as"empathetic adults". Secondly, that whilst empathy is a BIG factor in successful learning, its not the only one. If education is to prepare us for the adult world, warts and all, then those fortunate enough to experience a series of challenges which stretch their ability, but not overwhelm it continuously, have the best growth and learning environment. And the specifics are quite different for different children. Amongst other factors , its that insight into how big a challenge can this child handle, here and now that requires empathy.
    • May 5 2013: I do not disagree with your statement John. I also believe that students should be able to connect with a teacher who "gets" them while in school. Even the "toughest teacher" may be very empathetic to some students plights and "get" a student that others don't.

      My only point with this is the subjectivity of "empathy". Most people are looking for something beyond empathy, more along the lines of sympathy or other that I can't quite put my finger on. I do agree that a personal connection is important and even required to be a great or even good teacher. At the same time, students need to learn and sometimes that means they run into deadlines and unyielding teachers.

      The great point you make here is that "specifics are quite different for different children." That is the single thing that people don't understand. Two kids in the same class can perceive the same action in two different ways. Great insights and thoughtful response John.
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    May 5 2013: I too am a teacher. Effective Teachers have many more qualities than just (1) Understanding [actually "Subject Knowledge"] and (2) Communication. When more teachers understand that human qualities...such as Love, Kindness, Empathy, Creativity, etc.-- both in themselves and in those whom they teach, are equally important, we will have a better world....because Life is not only about being academically smart. It's also about valuing humanity by helping everyone who passes our way in whatever way we can. It's about waking up the "unconscious." There is only NOW and if we don't start teaching awareness and consideration towards those around us to our children, their future will be very bleak.

    Every teacher has the opportunity of making a difference in their students' life. What their students will remember is whether or not their class was boring and tedious, or joyful and exuberant. Like I said earlier, only people who enjoy helping others should be teachers (not those who choose this field to have their summers off!). There are many intelligent students who sit in classrooms and don't learn. It's all about presentation--making it FUN! When students are treated with kindness and empathy, they blossom--there's no need to demand, discipline, or bully them. Just like plants who are not watered die, children who are not nurtured will not develop to their best capabilities. I put my focus on bringing out the best in EACH of my students.
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    May 4 2013: That's not true at all. Measures of effectiveness regarding an educator cannot hinge on one single variable. Educators must be well rounded and need to exhibit behaviors based on their position.

    1. Understanding
    An educator needs to have a firm grasp on the mechanics of any subject they teach. They need to understand the basic components of a subject in order to properly educate others.

    2. Communication
    Educators must be effective communicators. This isn't about being articulate. This is about having the ability to communicate sets of data in various ways.

    Empathy is not required. Sometimes understanding that you cannot possibly fully grasp another person's situation may help you communicate with them.

    The problem here is "subjective understanding". This is totally different from "objective understanding" in that "subjective understanding" is only relevant to you.

    You may say "I understand" and have no real clue as to what the other person is thinking or feeling. Empathy is a tricky thing. We should not worry about empathy. We should consider that we may not be able to fully empathize with another person. So we should not base our assessments of behavior on our subjective understanding of their situation.
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      May 4 2013: Henry. It is precisely this attitude that has brought us to such a low rating in education compared to so many other countries.

      It's a given that teachers need to own the subjects that they teach, but besides knowing the subject, they also need to know how to capture the student's attention by making their classes FUN and interesting...no matter the subject. It's a scientific fact that, when students are having FUN, their brain expands and they pay more attention. People can only learn when they are paying attention--not daydreaming or snoozing--and it is the teacher's responsibility to create an environment of curiosity--not by demanding or bullying.

      I knew a teacher who even made Calculus FUN by starting each class with a math song. My French teacher was also fully "engaged"--and as a result, I still speak French fluently (Thank you, Mr. Regester!). The minute we entered the classroom, we were in Paris, with our own French names, and if we didn't know a word, the class was encouraged to play "Charades" and help each other find the missing word/s. Anyone who lacks creativity, or doesn't absolutely love the subject and love helping others to learn, would be better off doing a different line of work.
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        May 4 2013: How does any of that make me wrong?
      • May 5 2013: Here is the link to the Merriam - Webster definition of Empathy:

        http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/empathy

        As an educator, I should be aware of your feelings and issues as a student. But that has no bearing on how well I educate you in the classroom. What you are describing in your classes in school is not empathy, it is good teaching by inspiring the students through good education. Maybe your teachers were empathetic, maybe they weren't, just because the class was "fun" does not tell me anything about their level of empathy for you, the student.

        The teachers job is what Henry describes, to teach. Your job, as a student is to learn. What you have stated in your counter-point supports what Henry believes good educators should be doing. It is not counter to his view at all, but it describes the issue of empathy quite well. Some students may not have enjoyed "singing" in class because they were not good singers and been very uncomfortable with that. Does that make your calculus teacher less empathetic or a bad teacher? Or students who don't like charades or language immersive classrooms may have not learned as much as others. If I asked them what they thought, perhaps they hated that class and French.

        Yes, your teachers were creative, but they may not have cared what you thought or your feelings. As a teacher, I can be incredibly creative and forward thinking in my lessons, but not be empathetic and still considered a good teacher because my students score high on tests. I could also be considered a poor teacher because students don't like high expectations or don't want to learn.
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          May 6 2013: "Your job as a student is to learn."??? The first step is for teachers to teach students HOW to learn by the way we ourselves approach the subject. That's why kids are in school--because they DON'T know and we, as teachers, are supposed to know. Kids sing because it's joyful; they're not thinking about whether they have a good voice or not.

          These are inhibitions that develop BECAUSE they have not been given an environment of spontaneity and creativity. In my French class, we all became close friends because we learned to give and to share as a result of playing Charades. No child was left out because our teacher was so astute about giving care and nurturing to his "family" of students.

          I think the problem is that some people don't understand that the word "Empathy" means to put oneself into the other person's place. How we would feel/respond if we had experienced the same situation and also had had the same background and experiences as the other person.

          When we are able to understand that, were we to have been born to this other person's family, with the same physical and mental attributes, as well as the same relationships and experiences in our life, we would, in fact, be and act exactly as this person does. That being the case, we can all develop more humility, tolerance, and understanding in dealing with others.
    • May 5 2013: To be one of the best, empathy is a necessity. You and others don't know why. Thank a teacher.
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    May 13 2013: Excellent idea David Newton.

    ......Without empathy nothing else matters.
    • May 13 2013: If only more people felt the same Juliette, the world would be a VERY different place!
  • May 8 2013: I note you are selective about the questions you answer, brushing over those which appear uncomfortable for you to answer. For sure, there is a shift in teaching methods needed, I don't think anyone would argue with that, and there's not enough love going round, idem. But judging someone's professional skill PURELY on empathy just doesn't wash. Sorry.
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    May 7 2013: Education is the one profession where working with others cannot be successful without empathy. Thats all I have to say about that.
    • May 7 2013: May I ask what is the ONE profession where one cannot be without empathy?

      Playing devil's advocate, just which profession can you engage in without reference to the physical and emotional needs of others?
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        May 7 2013: I believe other professions that require working with others such as customer service, you can complete your work successfully without having to genuinely care about the customer (which sadly, I feel many people do ) whether you show it or not, such as pretending to care just to get through the day and get the job done.

        With education, you're in a situation where the recipient of your work will ONLY benefit if you genuinely care. Students (for the most part) will not engage in a lecture or lesson unless you engage them and that can only happen with sincerity, consideration, and empathy.
        • May 7 2013: YES...

          Sir you have just made my day!

          The only person who decides whether you do a good job or not is your customer. No one else matters. The fact that companies continue to fail (over 50 years since the first customer service team) in the eyes of their customers is exactly why they need to change to the empathy model. How many times have you been convinced when the rep tries to fabricate empathy? Very very few can act that well!

          In CS its exactly the same as your educational standpoint believe me.
        • May 14 2013: Not true. Students should be able to learn whether or not they 'like' the teacher.
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    R H 20+

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    May 6 2013: I'm sorry David, I just can't get over this one. Please take the word 'alone' out of the title, then we can respond to the 'idea' of rating teachers on their empathy as A COMPONENT of their professionalism and effectiveness, rather than 'alone'. The way it reads now, we would be rating physicians on their 'empathy alone' rather than how well they wield a scalpel or apply their training on anatomy, which is laughable if it wasn't so sad.
    • May 6 2013: Well RH, the good news is that you are not being asked to get over it.

      The point of the the premise is that as empathy is at the centre of Emotional Intelligence, when the performance of educators is measured using its elements only, the results would be paradigm shift that education needs.

      Out of curiosity, please explain to me how a physician's performance cannot be measured based on how the patient is left feeling? To be empathetic the application of training must be done in a manner that demonstrably supports the needs of the patient. Why is that laughable exactly?
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        May 7 2013: Your assuming, that in being 'empathetic', technical competency is a 'given' in evaluation. Somehow, we have eliminated, in this idea, that fundamental competency in the field, technical competency, current technique competency, as part of the evaluation process. A doctor can give medicine to alleviate pain, be 'nice and kind and emotionally intelligent', make the patient 'feel better', then send them home and they die because they didn't cure the disease. Under your system, he/she would be rated satisfactorily. This makes no sense to me. I have no problem with 'empathy' being a minor component of evaluation, but a component only, not the sole scale of competency. Surely you must see that?
        • May 7 2013: I do not recall anyone saying that being nice and kind equates to empathy.

          The part you seem to miss is the understanding part of empathy. To fully understand there are both practical and emotional elements. If you properly understand, using your scenario, you would administer appropriately so no dead patient.

          Does that help?
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        May 7 2013: Ah, there we go. I am not familiar with any definition of empathy including technical, or practical, skill elements. But since you have defined it so in this instance, we are much closer to agreement. Thnx.
        • May 7 2013: At the core of empathy is understanding and, as everything we do at a conscious level has two drivers - the emotional driver and the practical, understanding means understanding those two elements. Better?
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        May 8 2013: At the risk of appearing uncooperative and dogmatic, and for clarity purposes only, I must offer that I believe you are combining two distinct attributes into one definition - which I have accepted for this discussion, but not as a matter of general understanding. The whole premise of this discussion rests on the definition of "... empathy alone", and I cannot find a definition of empathy that includes 'practical skill' as a component of its definition. Now, you suppose that we must 'understand' , which lies 'at the core' of empathy, that 'everything we do consciously has two drivers'. You then reason that 'empathy' is something we're 'doing', and therefore contains an understanding of a practical element which is sufficient to evaluate teachers with empathy alone. But the 'doing' of empathy is in the practical application of empathy, not 'all-encompassing' of the competency of the subject empathy is applied to. Empathy means what it means, and whatever practical driver empathy contains is driving empathy, not the practical skill level and technical competency of the subject its referring, in this case teachers. Believe it or not, I'm on your side. I'm just trying to clarify this distinction as a reader and participant.
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          May 8 2013: I share your reaction, RH, but am out of thumbs ups for you for the week.
  • May 6 2013: David, I think the "single criterion" approach to enabling teachers to engage better with students which you summarise as " all we would need to do is start scoring each lecture based on its empathy rating... No initiatives, no edicts, no empathy = poor score = poor review. " is probably not the most effective approach to improving. You identify both the aim, and the barrier in "This system originated as a consequence of making graduates more employable. I realised that that work was quickly undermined in the absence of a supportive environment and the Uni in question were baulking at training all lecturers." You are describing a cultural problem amongst that staff, and in that University, in giving graduates a qualification, and an attitude, that makes them employable. It sounds to me like there is a need for a significant culture shift amongst both administrators, and educators there. And that's essentially a leadership problem,, and I think it needs a more extensive intervention than trying to use student evaluation of empathy. I'd suggest you have to start with building a commitment to change in the institutional leadership team, and having them work to show staff by example what student -staff styles of interactions they seek, and consistently rewarding those over a 3-5 year period. A single factor "good review poor review" approach won't cut the mustard in my experience (only 35 years in industrial management and consulting - and in my experience, educators are even less biddable than most people. They really do need to be led by example.) But good luck, I hope your approach succeeds.
    • May 6 2013: Hi John.

      You are, of course, correct in that the ideal way forward is to gain the engagement and commitment of the leadership. Like you I have been through the mill over the last 30 years and this is why/how I have developed this approach.

      The simple facts are that increasingly fewer and fewer boards are endowed with the wisdom that delivers vision.What this means is that they want areas of the business to change but not themselves. This, as we both know, is an impossibility.

      So, my answer to this dilemma is my version of positive subversion. The changes at the coal face impact those above without their knowing or understanding. Once realisation kicks in they either buy-in or bail out. Most, I'm happy to report' can't deny the facts so go along with it and hey presto 'change' without the pain of trying to convince boards.
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    May 5 2013: David, This is really inconvient for me.

    For years I have been perfecting faking sincerity ... now I must add faking empathy ... where does it all stop.

    If it wasn't for the kids and the parents this would be a great job.

    I wish you well (not faked). Bob.
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    May 4 2013: What? I don't think I understand your idea. Empathy is the vicarious understanding of the feelings and/or emotions of another person. You want to rate your kids teacher SOLELY on that? Surely you jest...
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      May 6 2013: First of all, I would eliminate the wording "solely" from empathy...although empathy definitely needs to be one of the many important factors in educating children because teaching is not just about the student learning the lesson, it is also about being aware of the emotional needs of the children we teach and the understanding that every word spoken to a child either affects them in a positive or negative way and builds from there.

      Teachers, parents, and any adult who interacts with children all need to get this because it can change the cycle of having so many angry adults in the world...of whom many commit heinous crimes due to their lack of empathy. We live in a world where intellectual and physical achievement are placed above Happiness and Inner Peace. People compete about everything; they don't understand that every action they take is because they "unconsciously" are seeking Inner Peace...w/o which there can be no lasting happiness ... only fleeting tastes of it.

      This is because Inner Peace can only come from choosing to do the right thing which has to do with the way we treat everyone we encounter in life's journey (not just our chosen few). Unless we, as teachers, teach by example, with love and kindness, we are leaving out the most important aspect of education...that children who are treated with kindness and love grow up healthy and happy...and that happy people don't hurt others or commit crimes.

      Happy people want to make others happy and look for every opportunity to help one another. When more teachers, parents, and other adults understand this, Love and Peace will reign, instead of Competition, Egotism, Exceptionality, Insatiable Greed, and Mindless Destruction--all of which put us on the path to dissatisfaction and the need for MORE...more money, more things, more activities, more clothes, more....etc.
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        May 6 2013: Dear Ginger, maybe I'm missing something from this conversation, but I cannot remove the word 'solely'. The title states: 'Rate educators on their empathy ALONE.' Solely is equivalent to 'alone' in this context. I merely responded that I may not have understood the conversation because the premise that teachers should be rated ONLY on their empathy is so ridiculous.
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          May 6 2013: RH: I agree with you that the word "solely" is a bit exaggerated since teachers also need to have many other aspects of the whole. At the same time, I didn't want to let a good statement go to waste by letting the most important part of it (empathy) fall by the wayside. I do feel though that Empathy should be a pre-requisite for teaching, especially for the very young.
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    May 4 2013: This information about relationships is just as important for parents as it is for educators. I'm a teacher in a Glasser Quality School and we emphasize building strong relationships with our students and helping them learn how to build strong relationships with their friends and family, as well. In For Parents and Teenagers: Dissolving the Barrier Between You and Your Teen, Dr. Glasser says, "The secret of a successful relationship between any two people when the power in unequal is for the person with the most power to do as much as he or she can to show respect for the weaker person's position…..Your teen may be weaker but he is not without the ability to do himself and others a lot of harm by showing you that you can't control him at school or anywhere else when he is out of your sight. As I will state over and over in this book, when he is on his own, your only control over him is the strength of your relationship."
    This is so true and one of the first things people who visit our school comment on is the amazing feeling of friendship and community in our building.

    One last comment. At a Glasser Quality School, students are not allowed to settle for anything less than B quality work. This seems ultimately respectful to us. We are the educational professionals in their lives and if we write down in our record books that they have earned C's, D's, F's, and zeros, then too often, children interpret this as a statement that they are C, D, F, and Zero people. They carry this belief inside them somewhere throughout their lives. Instead, when the school itself says, "We KNOW you can earn at least a B on this topic, if you keep at it. We will help you figure out how you learn best. We are there for you. Don't give up," then on a deep level, students realize their own personal power. We see transformations every day. For instance, right now, I'm sitting in a classroom with students on a Saturday night, writing their own play to produce. Fun!
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        May 5 2013: The concept of failure is hurting kids and has been hurting kids as long as it has existed. For instance, my father, who became a renowned NASA scientist and who invented metals that could endure the stresses of outer space, was so damaged by failing fifth grade, that he refused to do any more education after high school and became a NASA mechanic, eventually rising to be a metals technologist who traveled the world, teaching the people at Boeing and in Japan how to do what he did. He overcame the feeling of failure in this way, but he took a very low salary as a technician because he wouldn't take a risk of failure in college courses and become an engineer. He had already made up his mind that formal education wasn't for him. He only stayed in school long enough to graduate because my grandmother insisted and he didn't want to let her down.

        This happened in the fifties, when dropping out of high school was the norm. Today, many of our best and brightest young people feel no connections with adults at school (and too often, at home as well) and consequently do not work hard to achieve. They accept mediocre grades, or even failing grades and barely get by.

        We can demonstrate at our school that these students are every bit as able to accomplish great things as the kids who make A's and B's and go on to Ivy League schools. They just aren't connected to the system, and they resist.

        There's no point in designating anyone a failure. It doesn't make them tougher. It slows them down. It creates self doubt where none is necessary. Every single student can make it and learn and enjoy themselves. All that is required is the time given and the relationships built and the intellect challenged in a meaningful way.
      • May 5 2013: I think you have a point.

        Parents have largely messed up but that is now behind us and we have to deal with the today and tomorrow. Hence my suggestion.

        That said, once junior goes home and starts displaying empathetic tendencies it WILL rub off on those who are saveable.

        One other thing to remember here. Going to a wonderful university does not guarantee you a decent job. Simple IQ (no matter how hi) is no longer enough. There is so much evidence flying around we can no longer ignore that Emotional Intelligence (at who's heart sits empathy) makes you 4 times more successful both in a business sense as well as a personal sense.
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        May 7 2013: Dear ZX Style, (For some reason, the red Reply button isn't available, so I'm using an earlier one) This is in reply to your comment in which you paraphrase me. That was a good strategy because it lets me know how to clarify. I don't mean that we shouldn't let kids feel like failures. I mean we should completely do away with the entire concept of defining people as failures because that strategy ends up with too many of our citizens quitting learning too early. If you give a student a C, D, or F, you're letting them know that you're accepting low achievement from them. If you say, "This part is good, but this part needs work and here are some strategies for improving it," then the student doesn't just settle for a lower achievement, but pushes further, learns more. Isn't this what we want? I don't believe that kids don't like to learn. I've never met a single kid (and I've been working in schools all over the world, including huge city schools in the US for 35 years)who didn't like to learn, when the teacher made an effort to show how what was being learned was relevant and fun. I don't think we have to have a choice between harsh teachers and learning. I think all teachers can learn how to help students love learning, without harshness. We don't have to tolerate misbehavior in classes so that learning doesn't happen, but we don't have to be harsh either. Choice Theory is one method I've learned that helps students take a look at whatever behaviors they're using that aren't helping them learn and stay in classes. If a teacher has high expectations, AND helps students form loving and supportive relationships with the teacher and classmates, much MORE learning takes place, in my experience.
    • May 5 2013: Very nice, but how do you teach children to think for themselves?
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        May 5 2013: Easy. We ask them to think. For instance, at a Glasser Quality School, students take on a lot of the work of running the school. A good example would be that we have applicants from schools in our district throughout the year. Students taking the Leadership course create a workshop to get to know these applicants and their families. They invite them in for the workshop and do interviews and make recommendations to the Admissions Committee. They also make a list of the challenges they believe these students will face when they arrive in our school the following year and suggestions as to how we can support them. Students are also in charge of running the weekly Community Meetings. They organize retreats and Community Days. They travel around with me to various universities and conferences to teach about Glasser Quality Schools and how they have impacted their lives. In classes, they have the opportunity to think, as well. I am currently teaching a course called English Through Drama and the 17 students in the class built a strong relationship with one another, as we were studying world dramas from Greek theater to contemporary works. We became a writer's workshop and helped each other improve writing skills, all with the goal of writing our own full-length play together and performing it for the community. These students, many who have never wanted to stay after school to accomplish anything, met with me last night, Saturday, until 10pm, writing, writing, writing. They are pushing themselves to make sure the play is done in time to present before the end of the school year. We believe that this dedication to the achievement of Quality Work is an important element in helping humans develop happiness in their lives. They no longer want to settle for a job. They want a career that matters to them. We help them figure out what they need and want and how to bring it to pass. That's a deep level of thought that often isn't required in public education.
        • May 5 2013: Finally, a school with a brain. From what you're telling me, your teachers are more like moderators, something I've been pushing for several years now. Tell me, does your school teach first graders on and to what grade or college?

          One other thing, what new things have your students brought to the world that none other has? People that can think for themselves bring new thinking on a fairly continuous basis. Yes, I am one or I would not say such.

          Here is one of my less controversial offerings.


          The science of running by Jim Ryan.

          Yes, I used to run 10 miles a day for about 2 years. For whatever reason, I started counting a cadence in my head, that matched the cadence of my footfalls and my breathing, which synced body and mind, helping me to get into a trance like state, allowing me to run mile after mile without stress and the last mile I could run almost flat out.

          I know they teach different things today, but give my method a try, I think you'll like it. By the way, keep your eyes focused just in front of you, on the ground.

          The cadence in running I used to use was, "one two three one", " one two three two", "one two three three", and keep going.

          It's a 4 count breathing in and then a 4 count breathing out.

          Happy running.
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    May 4 2013: And we will have a better world ;)
  • May 8 2013: I look forward to hearing the results of your findings then, because as you can't reveal how you will measure empathy it makes it hard to comment and as your idea of empathy seems to be much broader than many other people's, it should be fascinating. Here's wishing you all the best in your endeavours. Anyone who tries to better the world meaningfully and with genuine care and respect for others has my vote.
    • May 8 2013: Thank you Kate. I really do care and will not give up trying...
  • May 7 2013: And again, apart from the timescale you would use,which is subjective, also the terms of measurement of empathy are surely not objective either.
    Would you be happy to be rated on your empathy alone in your own work? I don't think so, especially if the people who are writing here were the ones to judge you!
    • May 7 2013: Ok let's step back for a second.

      Empathy has at its core understanding. Understanding has two components practical and emotional. If you truly 'understand' you recognise - and act upon - both of those elements.

      So, in answer to your questions above.

      First, unless you are dealing with an absolute, there will always be a variation in scoring. However, you knew there would be one of those didn't you, the measurement of empathy is incredibly stable across ages and genders.

      Would I be happy to be measured on my empathy alone - COMPLETELY.

      The fact of the matter is that I have to walk the walk so try very hard to practise that which I have designed.

      Do I always get it right? Far from it, but I learn every day and hopefully get better.

      Am I consistent? No. Just like everyone else I am affected by moods and external circumstances and those things impact my performance.

      Is this a perfect system? No, not at all. What it is though is a 'game changer'. What we currently have continues to fail those it is designed to serve so doing nothing is simply not an option.

      I genuinely understand how uncomfortable people feel about this proposal but let me ask this, "What is the paradigm shifting alternative?" because tinkering has failed and failed and failed and failed...
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        May 7 2013: I think many people would be relieved to be evaluated by others on empathy alone, provided they could count on an objective and reliable assessment of them on that count. .

        A teacher who is highly committed to student learning will likely evaluate herself also, though, on the extent to which students understand and are able to use the course content in practice.
  • May 7 2013: In answer to your questions
    Love is not empathy. You can love someone without feeling what they are feeling or trying to. Thus I can love my students without empathising with them.
    Needing to moderate teaching methods according to students' needs is simple to see. A monkey can do it, but not necessarily show empathy. If a student is not keeping up with the majority there is a problem. The problem may be the method of teaching itself, the incorrect level placement of the student or simply that they react better to a different type of coaching or need more time than others. Not empathy.
    I didn't mention that my teachers, of whom I spoke so highly, nor my mother, who was a superb infant teacher had empathy for their students. They were strict, had high expectations of themselves and of their pupils, brooked no nonsense with tantrums etc., NOT empathising with the pupils' desire to follow their own plan, but insisting, firmly, that they do what the teacher asked.
    Of course a teacher can be loved and it's a good thing, but you can't base how good a teacher is on how much empathy they had with their students. Apart from anything else, how do you measure empathy? What parametres are you using?
    Also, in your reply to RH you ask why a physician's performance cannot be measured based on how the patient is left feeling. I'd like to know when you would take the patient's feeling about their treatment - straight out of surgery? After 2 days? A week? A year? You don't think that patient's feelings change over those periods? Which is the correct one to base your view on how good the surgeon was? As one of many parametres it could be considered, a good bedside manner is what it used to be called. But it is only part of the job, not the be all and end all. If you can't see that, I don't know how to explain it to you. The same with teachers, empathy can be one of many parametres, but NOT the ONLY one. Again, when would you ask for the student's feeling of empathy?
    • May 8 2013: Kate. Your response disappoints but does not surprise me.

      My apologies for assuming you might read the posts of others and so take from my answers to them that which applies to the post above.

      With the constraints of posting here on TED I will answer each point for YOU alone.

      Love is I agree not empathy. However love cannot exist without it.

      To moderate teaching methods requires an understanding of where there are and need to be in relation to the person in receipt of them. At the core of empathy is understanding so whether you believe it or not, you are displaying empathy.

      You incorrectly associate empathy with what you call tantrums or desire to follow their own plan. As already agreed elsewhere here, being empathetic is about understanding what the child needs not necessarily what they want. So, a kind of being cruel to be kind is empathetic.

      What and how am I measuring? That's my USP and as such I'm not about to tell the TED world all about it just yet ;-) What I can tell you though, is that it takes very little introduction and works consistently across ages, socio economic grouping and ALL of the cultures yet tested upon.

      The simple answer to that is 'all of the above'. Of course they change over time so why should the doctors performance be reviewed down the line. For me its the same as the financial sector. These guys get huge bonuses and yet 5 years later are the root cause of chaos so it is vital all aspects of their performance is scored.

      Keeping it simple here, empathy has three general elements, feeling, understanding & doing. Everything you describe fits into one of those categories.

      If I may, what you and everyone else here has done, and its my fault, is assume that 'empathy' is effectively represented by a single question. That is NOT the case as I've now hopefully demonstrated.
  • May 6 2013: Hi everyone. I feel compelled to write as I cannot believe a lot of what is being written here. Empathy has nothing to do with good teaching. Love and patience, lots of patience, praise where merited and knowledge of your subject are the most important tools in my opinion. Love for your students, for your subject and a desire to assist someone to learn are paramount, not empathy. I can't hope to understand what it feels like to be a kid from a home where my parents don't love me, I was lucky enough not to experience that, but I can try to share the love that was given to me with them. I can't empathise with the kids who study hard and remember everything because I wasn't that kid. I can't expect that every kid has the natural ability to do something and can wing it through exams as I did when I was younger. I can try to moderate my teaching methods to individual needs where I have that option and give extra help and time where possible, but the idea that a teacher should be rated on empathy is just ridiculous, in my humble opinion. All of my teachers at school were dedicated to their students and had high expecations of all of us. Consequently, all of the students who passed through their classes left with the tools to face life. I am still in touch with many of them 38 years later. You can't please all the people all the time, perhaps the best we can do is to strive to help the ones in our classes to help themselves.
    • May 6 2013: Hi Kate.

      Interesting concept in itself Kate; the one that says empathy has no place in teaching.

      Just a couple of questions if I may.

      1 - How can you love students you have no empathy with?

      2 - You talk of moderating your "teaching methods to individual needs". How might you do that without properly understanding what it is the individual needs?

      You know, It's my belief that you display and encourage empathy without realising what it is you are doing. You say "I can't hope to understand to understand what it feels like to be kid who's parents don't love me". What that literally screams at me is the fact you've tried. You've wrestled with it and cannot get there. That's empathy Kate.

      Long may you continue not to recognise it but it's there none-the-less and forms the basis of what it is you are and do.
  • May 5 2013: The reality Charlotte is that there is a transition and bedding in period. With a few notable exceptions, the concept has been embraced.

    The simple fact of the matter is that education is being bombarded from all quarters. Anecdotally, 99% of educators fully understand that they have ignored the feedback from the likes of employers for too long. Employers are now seeking alternatives to university degrees and so these institutions have finally woken up only to find the coffee cold...

    If HEIs are to even survive then a paradigm shift is required and this is what I propose and offer. Some will still have their head in the sand the day they die so there WILL be casualties. Unfortunately, in a fight for survival there always will be.

    The system looks to be wide open to abuse. The reality is that its not at all. If a student decides he hates lecturer Mrs X, and always rates her low, then that anomaly will show up, he would be interviewed and asked why. If no credible answer were forthcoming he would be advised his scores are being monitored.

    As time goes on, even if a group ganged up on a lecturer that would show up and have less impact on that lecturer's score overall. One would never base a review on say one student's scores. We have to be pragmatic and realise that occasionally there will be people who fall through the cracks. If you compare what we have against what we will have there is simply no comparison.

    Out of this falls many 'opportunities' such as you describe regarding processes.
  • May 5 2013: Hi Fritzie.

    Let's relook at the original premise - that empathy be the single measure.

    To be empathetic we have basic three threads:
    - feeling - replicating those of the subject
    - understanding - feeding back to the subject that you get it; you really do understand
    - doing - actions as a consequence of the first two

    Currently what do we have? Essentially zero consideration of the genuine needs of the subject. What measures are in place are manipulated to provide job security for educators and the consequences of that action resolved downstream.

    Now let's look at the benefits of empathy as the sole measure. Firstly, there is the teasing out of suppressed empathy. That brings all manner of benefits not least of which is the supportive environment so critical to making it an unconscious competence. Then, vitally, there is the active understanding and consideration of the needs of each charge. This, no matter how you cut it, can only lead to more effective teaching due to the increased focus.

    Realistically, is empathy the perfect measure? Possibly not. The fundamental problem faced by educators as a consequence of its introduction would be the taking of some students on a journey they, or their parents, simply do not understand is vitally important. They simply do not know they need to know!

    Is this alone a reason not to adopt it? In my view No. The benefits to both the individuals (staff and pupils) AND society at large are simply too big to not consider it.
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    May 5 2013: Rather than rating educators, how about educating educators? Every single human on this planet can learn the skills necessary to relate to students. Adults who do not know how to do this can learn. They can take courses. They can have mentors. If they are treated with respect and empathy by their administrators, that is the first step to learning how to do that, and the value of doing that, with their students. Rating them and firing them is the exact opposite of what we want them to be doing with our students. We do not want them to rate and then "fire" our students. Why should teachers be treated more harshly?

    If we spent time and money surrounding these angry teachers with care and support and encouraging them to learn to work out problems, they can learn. They also, just like our most reluctant students, can transform themselves into achievers. I have seen it happen over and over at our Glasser Quality School. Educators who believe themselves superior to students, soon see the benefits of working out conflicts with them rather than attacking them.

    Because there is a system in place to help students and teachers mediate conflicts on a daily basis, our classrooms are places students and teachers look forward to coming. When that is not happening, teachers seek out help and that is not condemned, but encouraged. We see teaching as a team sport, where teammates ask for help when needed and help is supplied with gratitude for the asking.

    If teachers don't feel safe in their jobs, they won't try something new. They won't take risks. They won't admit to weaknesses, nor ask for help. Creating a safe environment for teachers to learn and setting mutually agreed upon goals and working toward them as a team will help the angry teachers relax and begin to enjoy working with their students. Probably, they have no idea how to create a strong relationship with a student, nor are they aware of the positive differences that would make in their own lives
    • May 5 2013: Hi Charlotte

      I am currently working on a system for HE where students rate lecturers and support staff based on their empathy alone.

      This system originated as a consequence of making graduates more employable. I realised that that work was quickly undermined in the absence of a supportive environment and the Uni in question were baulking at training all lecturers. So, I worked out that in order to encourage empathetic behaviour from the tutors and staff all we would need to do is start scoring each lecture based on its empathy rating... No initiatives, no edicts, no empathy = poor score = poor review.
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        May 5 2013: Have you found that poor reviews = more empathic behaviors from instructors? It seems to me that poor reviews would result in less empathic behaviors because teachers would feel judged and in an unsafe environment. They would feel more cynical, sarcastic, and unappreciated.

        I believe students would not feel comfortable judging staff in a rating system if there was not already a problem of grading in the college. Because there is a risk of low grades/failure in working with staff (which is the current system of assessment), students are willing to grade staff, almost as a type of revenge. If there were no grades and instead a system of teams working together and working out conflicts, I believe no one would want to participate in a rating scale because it would be seen as hurtful of the team.

        For instance, in our school, we meet twice weekly to keep everything running well. I someone needs support to get something done, they ask for it. They are not seen as weak or insufficient because they are overwhelmed in some way. We all know that the time will come when we need the support, too, so we offer it willingly. We don't need some rating system to tell us that we aren't doing well. We self-assess and then get the support we need.

        If we get information from the outside that we aren't doing well enough, we work together to solve the problem -- for instance, I had a parent complaint to my principal that I wasn't answering emails quickly enough. The principal and I looked over my schedule and realized that it was impossible for me to do it more quickly without taking me away from students, which was not an optimal use of my skills, so she assigned some of my email responsibilites (for admissions) to someone else who was not with students as often. Problem solved.
        I realize that what I am suggesting is a long-term fix with many system changes needed to enact it. What results have you had with the rating system leading to more empathic teaching methods?
  • May 5 2013: It seems to me that there is more than one aspect to successful teaching. Empathy can be important in many situations; but so can tough demands (which feel most un-empathetic). I think it matters that students find some teachers empathetic, but learning to cope with a range of teachers different personal styles is pretty good education for real life too. Lets respect and celebrate the diversity of different teaching styles.
    • May 5 2013: Empathy and tough demands are not mutually exclusive though.

      A "tough" teacher can be empathetic and understand what you are going through, and even relate to the feelings you are having, then turn around and give you a failing grade for not completing said task. A teacher with a high level of empathy doesn't mean that they lower their expectations just because they are empathetic. Now, I would differentiate between those teachers who just don't care what your reason is and are even mean and one with tough demands who might even be said to be "mean".
  • May 5 2013: To expand. Please forgive me for that which you already know.

    Unless there is some form of abnormality in brain function, every child has empathy ‘hard wired’.

    It either develops or is suppressed through childhood into adulthood. Good parenting reinforces/grows it, whilst not great (and that's not mean 'bad') parenting buries it somewhat. School's formulaic approaches impact too but to a lesser extent.

    Let’s just define the empathy we're talking about. It's principally about feeling that which others feel – the same emotions. It’s also about making sure the other person understands that you are feeling those same feelings so feeding back is vital too. In an educational environment it's the educators duty to act upon that information in an appropriately supportive manner.

    Back to childhood. The feelings will range from ecstasy to grief. Parental focus tends to be the negative aspects as the lessons are generally about considering others. So a good parent ensures their child feels more negativity… It’s not torture but about learning priceless skills designed to make them a better, more successful person long term. When the child experiences how 'they' might have made another feel, it’s not very nice; this means you have to support them as it takes genuine courage to go to a bad place you are not forced to go to. The child must understand it’s a temporary thing, simply a tool to become a more complete human being.

    Pragmatic (not idealistic) measurement of empathy is actually very simple and takes most people, even children as young as 8/9) no more than 10 minutes to master. Adults 'get it' within seconds.

    Everett is right that many people cannot differentiate between empathy and sympathy but again that is eminently teachable and always the starting point. I'm currently doing this is a major UK university.
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      May 5 2013: Thank you, David, for entering your thread. Most of the responses I have seen here so far do not discount the value or even necessity of empathy in effective teaching. The debate is with the latter part of your claim- that empathy ALONE matters- that, for example, content knowledge or ability to communicate content effectively or to ask questions that guide student inquiry or the comprehension students demonstrate that they have attained are irrelevant.

      Could you also address this aspect of your question, then - the case for why these other dimensions of teaching and learning that respondents are putting forward do not matter in your model? Are they subsumed under your idea of empathy? For example, would you argue that a teacher with proper empathy toward students will automatically master the subject he teaches because he understands the damage to the students' learning trajectory if he does not become expert and flexible in his content knowledge and pedagogy?
  • May 5 2013: Since this conversation could devolve incredibly quickly, I would like to ask a clarifying question.

    How do you rate empathy in an OBJECTIVE manner?

    This is the serious under-lying issue here. If you can't rate "empathy" in an objective manner then you can't rate it appropriately. You also can make no evaluative judgement of the teacher based on this issue.

    Are you going to ask students? Shoot, most of them couldn't accurately define empathy much less know if the teacher is actually "empathetic". It will boil down to "that teacher is nice and that one is mean". So, please, let me know how we can evaluate a subjective interpretation of how a teacher feels towards their students.
  • May 5 2013: In life - most people we interact with do not conform to our preferred Myers-Briggs. Get used to it.
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    May 5 2013: I reject the premise

    I hear what you are saying regarding the speaker. I think when she said " students don't learn from people they don't like" is a tool.

    The reality is that the student educates himself. The reality is that an education is something that can be applied and this is the goal of an educator.
  • May 5 2013: I think this is a very slippery slope towards a very poor ending.

    I am an educator and can tell you that assessment based on how I appear to treat your child is completely subjective and has no objective basis. How you perceive my treatment of you is completely out of my control. My understanding of your challenges and feelings and how your think I feel about them has no basis in anything that is evaluative.

    If you want to assess me based on how I treat your child, then I will have parents who champion me and parents who think I am a tyrant based solely on what they think of me. I have been down that road and faced parents who "think" I don't like their child because I hold them accountable to a standard that the parents think is unreasonable (come into class, sit down, get to work, be polite, study, etc.). I would be opposed to this because I know of some really nice teachers who I, as an educator, would never put my child into their class because they would not learn anything.

    Henry W. is bang on in his comments about what educators should do and how they should be well rounded.
    • May 5 2013: That's why you and most other teachers fail as educators. You want children to be the adults, while you don't seek understanding. Tow the mark, do this, do that, don't talk in my class unless I tell you too, raise your hand if you want to go to the restroom, do what I tell you and the list is endless. You are taught by bullies, to be bullies and you teach copy and paste, that's all. You are tools for a totally corrupt and fearful leadership, but then history is full of the same.
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        May 5 2013: I couldn't agree with you more, Jim. Too many teachers are still using the teaching weapons of the past...instead of understanding the newer Psychology developments that tell us otherwise. Students should not be fearful of their teachers or school; when they are treated kindly and lovingly, they look forward to attending. I believe that some very important lessons have been left out of our Educational curriculum--although some teachers instinctively understand these important factors. Many children who are bullied by their teachers and by their parents become angry adults and so our focus needs to be on teaching by example...with empathy and love.
      • May 5 2013: First, you make massive assumptions about me as a teacher. Second, you know nothing about how I teach my students. Third, you have no basis for any understanding of how I treat my students. Nor do your comments reflect most of the fine educators I have had to opportunity to work with.

        I will simply not engage in this discourse as it adds nothing to the nature of this discussion thread.
        • May 5 2013: You tell people who you are, what you teach and how you teach, with every word you write and every word you don't write. Instead of getting all mad and lashing out, you could have asked for the reasoning behind my claims. When the first thing that a teacher does is to get mad and lash out, what do you expect from your students? If you believe you are a good teacher or that I am wrong, you would be smart enough to know that by questioning me, you would have me show by my own words, that I am wrong.

          Now your pride will keep you from listening or learning, just as you teach your students. I do realize its what and how you were taught, so y'all should be forgiven. Its also easy to see that the system wants you to be this way.

          You teachers teach cubicle smarts, while you teach children to always do as they are told, by the way you teach. You can't change anyhow, because the system doesn't want children that can think for themselves, stand up for themselves, how to recognize many dangers, simple psychology, how to get along with one another, how partners and friends need to consider each other and so much more.

          You teachers complain bitterly about unruly students and how they disrupt everything. You have the power and the tools, but you were never taught how and why. You teach most children to be followers, because that's what industry and gov demand.

          Teachers spend many more hours everyday with most children, more than their own moms and dads, because that's what our leadership has driven us too.
  • May 4 2013: Amen to that Farokh.

    The children would also be provided a supportive environment to grow their empathy instead of being forced to largely suppress it as at present.