A lack of respect and empathy increases the possibility for disputes to occur, challenging a child’s ability to step into the shoes of another person and experience the world through that perspective. At First Book, we recognize educators require support to eliminate educational barriers like these that prevent kids from learning. We sought out to offer a helping hand.
Empathy begins with understanding life from another person’s perspective. Nobody has an objective experience of reality. It’s all through our own individual prisms.”– Sterling K. Brown
Following extensive research, we uncovered that educators are all too familiar with these obstacles already and are using tools to foster respect and empathy in the classroom. As a result, we set out to leverage these various activities and ideas to share amongst the Network to ensure that educators who may be struggling to improve these challenges have a resource to help create a kindhearted learning and living environment through equity, cultural competence, and unconditional support.
With help from Maryland State Education Association and our First Book Network, First Book designed and developed Promoting Respect & Empathy: A Toolkit for Educators of All Grades – a comprehensive educational resource including a collection of activities, tips, book recommendations, and more gathered from First Book members across the United States serving kids in need.
“It’s designed to become an all-in-one [resource]. No matter what grade level you teach, hopefully, you find something that you can use – maybe one you haven’t tried yet and can help you launch or continue your schoolyear,” said Julye Williams, Director of Resource & Program Development, First Book.
Featuring activities ranging from warm and fuzzy for our early learners to viewing and analyzing Ted Talks for high schoolers, the toolkit includes full exercises customizable by grade and age to scale activities up or down for older or younger students to certify accessibility. Each activity can also be tailored to the instructor. Whether you’re a teacher, after-school program coordinator, or guidance counselor, each activity is accessible for the use of all people.
“I LOVED being [a] part of the toolkit,” said Heidi Overfelt, School Librarian, Bedford, VA. “All the ideas were exciting, and I am going to use some of them in my classes. I printed it out and shared it with other teachers and the guidance counselor. It is a great resource.”
In First Book fashion, each activity was coupled with book recommendations suggested by educators to help compliment exercises. These titles consist of diverse stories that allow students to promote respect and encourage discussion with students.
“Our schools are required to wear uniforms as a way to combat bullying from other students. The only way the students can stand out is with their shoes,” said Deana Sain, School Librarian, Bolivar, TN. “I submitted “Those Shoes” because it told the story of a boy whose grandmother could not afford to buy him the shoes he wanted. I was thrilled to learn it had been included in the toolkit!”
It is our hope that in sharing the great work already being done within the First Book community of educators, you will discover even more opportunities to promote respect and empathy.