The I AM Program

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Feelin' IT! From BIG SPIRIT for schools

Posted by Arna on May 24, 2012 at 8:55 PM

Within our 'Feelin’ It' workshop at Stokers Siding School today we focused on Empathy.

The children used dictionaries and the Internet to acquire information and definitions.

Not one of the children had even heard the word Empathy before today!

We went on to share personal stories of empathy.

One lovely young lady was kind enough to share a heartbreaking story of being bullied at school and feeling terrible until a friend came and spoke kindly to her and comforted her by showing empathy.

We discussed the stolen generation and read a story written by a young Indigenous woman who had grown up on the missions. We talked of how there must have been a lack of empathy and understanding back when it was thought that the white Australia policy was a good idea.

I noticed that no children in the class, even Indigenous children were aware of the white Australia policy or had heard of missions. Some of the children referred to Aboriginals as dark people and one innocent child shared that she had been afraid to touch people with brown skin in case the colour rubbed off on her.

It was healthy to air our stories, fears and thoughts in a place of no judgement, having things out in the open is a big step in healing.

Other stories flowed, until through simple sharing and listening we had a good strong understanding of what empathy actually is and how necessary it is for a happy and successful life.

We learned how empathy might come in handy when we grow up. In a work situation our boss might be having a bad morning and treating his employees in an angry way, the employee might get angry back and argue or be mean and get fired or he might use empathy and emotional intelligence to see that the boss is having a bad day.The employee might offer him help or a cup of tea and find himself promoted!

We created paintings to further explore and express empathy and they were BEAUTIFUL!

Empathy was expressed in different colours and scenario's sometimes abstract sometimes literal always valid!

It seemed that most of the children dearly wished that we could all get along with each other and they could see that developing EMPATHY in all people would be an excellent start.

Our final moment was blowing up balloons filled with jelly-beans of all colours, on the balloons we had written words like hatred, fear, nastiness and racism. Each child read out their negative word HATRED and FEAR and noted these behaviours equal a lack of EMPATHY then burst the balloon and ate the lollies!

In this way we reaffirmed that in order to POP away these hurtful behaviours and state of mind we could employ empathy!

All in all a wonderfully successful class with a group of perspicacious, empathetic and emotionally intelligent future leaders!

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