I will act with Empathy

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Release Date: 
Monday, June 10, 2019

 One time that I have stepped out of my comfort zone and acted with empathy was actually during my last AmeriCorps assignment where I was serving at an under resourced, inner-city middle school. I had students with special consideration and that were on individualized learning plans. I had to consider how to approach my students based on their needs and meeting them where they were at. One student in particular had behavioral issues that made learning challenging. After months of trying to use the schools discipline system without any results I decided to try a system of my own. 

The child needed more structure and kindness when she would have outbursts instead of detention or punishment. So when she would have outbursts or loss her temper and wanted to use violence against other students I would calmly speak to her and ask her for a time out. The time out was supposed to help her cool down and remember why she wanted to be at school and her academic goals for the year. She would, with my guidance, do a loop around the hall and splash cold water on her face. She and I would then do some deep breathing exercises. After she was able to lower her body temperature and slow down her rapid thoughts she was able to explain to me why it is important for her to reframe from violence against other students and focus on her school work. I had to have empathy during the situation because I needed to see her struggles as something that were not inherently bad but just a particular challenge she needed help with. The student ended up not getting into any more fights that year and even passed all of her classes. I was and still am very proud of her.

I learned that people even children should not ever be labeled as bad. Sometimes they just need a little direction and concern from an adult to show them there are different ways to handle uncomfortable and frustrating situations. I also learned that just because someone uses violence against others does not mean they are unable to be helped or should be punished but with some empathy they can flourish without returning to more negative modes of action. People, especially children, are very adaptable and for the most part want to be good people.