The Ethics Institute at Kent Place School ran a series of assemblies on the theme of empathy at Lincoln-Hubbard Elementary School in honor of the New Jersey Week of Respect.
These assemblies promoted awareness and understanding not only what empathy looks and feels like, but also how it’s lived out in students’ lives at school, on the playground, and at home. The Ethics Institute helped to kick off Lincoln-Hubbard’s year-long focus on empathy. Kent Place Primary School Psychologist, Marie Hays, explains that “empathy lies at the heart of all social skills because the ability to understand another person's perspective naturally leads to respectful and caring communication and action.”
A central aspect of these assemblies was students teaching students, with the Kent Place Middle School Peer Mediators creating and performing skits to promote discussion around the importance of being empathetic. One of the advisors of the Peer Mediators, Kent Place School Head Librarian John Walz, shared how the peer mediators “did an impressive job of creating scenarios that grade-school students could relate to, crafting scripts, and rehearsing and presenting their work. I was delighted by their dedication to sharing their skills with others.”
The Peer Mediators also helped run the discussions that asked Lincoln-Hubbard Elementary School students to think about: “How do you show empathy to others?”; “How is empathy different from sympathy?”; and “Why is empathy important?” The assemblies also included short videos and interactive readings of “Stand in My Shoes” by Bob Sornson and “You, Me, and Empathy” by Jayneen Sanders.
We are very grateful to all the Kent Place School faculty and staff who helped create and run these assemblies: Director of the Ethics Institute, Dr. Karen Rezach; Assistant Director of the Ethics Institute, Ms. Ariel Sykes; Primary School Psychologist, Dr. Marie Hays; Middle & Upper School Social Worker, Mrs. Joan Wilson; Primary School Language Arts Coordinator, Ms. Joanne Emery; and Middle & Upper School Head Librarian, Mr. John Walz.
“It was both a joy and a privilege to continue our partnership with Lincoln Hubbard Elementary School and be invited back to kick off their Respect Week focus on empathy,” stated Dr. Rezach. “Everyone was actively identifying strong and weak examples of empathy in our skits, picture books, and short video clips. Teaching children how to live and lead with empathy is much more effective in developing character than teaching them how not to bully someone.”
The Ethics Institute at Kent Place School and Summit Public Schools share a common mission of raising awareness and promoting discussion surrounding values and ethical decision-making. The series of assemblies hosted at Lincoln-Hubbard School gave students the tools and framework needed to feel empowered to develop their own sense of values with which they can make competent and thoughtful ethical decisions. Making thoughtful decisions is a character strength that all students need the opportunity to develop.
For more information about the Ethics Institute at Kent Place School, please visit our website at www.kentplace.org/ethics