Exercise Empathy

Even before the current COVID crisis, psychologists reported that empathy is declining in our culture, and most dramatically in the young. At the same time, research in the fields of neuroscience and social psychology is clearly showing that, while competition is innate to humans, so is empathy. In my book, The Chemistry of Culture, I point out neuroscience has revealed that our desire and ability to trust and help each other has been hard-wired into our brains by human evolution.

By better understanding the brain chemistry of culture, we can improve our ability to collaborate and to empower each other. Neuroscientists like Harvard’s Paul Zak are showing how culture changes the chemicals in our brain. Scientists are learning how the brain’s chemistry creates the chemical foundation for our outward behaviors. And as they better understand the brain chemistry behind our relationships, they are learning how our culture creates a cocktail of drugs in our brains and, like a delicate dance, the chemistry of our brain both governs, and is governed by, our culture.

What we’ve learned from this neuroscience research is good news: We are indeed capable of creating a better, more humane, and empathic culture than we currently have. These lessons are cause for hope. Because empathy impacts far more than our personal relationships, it shapes the way we see and experience the world around us and how we interact with others who share our space. But we’ve learned that do so, we must be intentional in our actions.

Prior to the current COVID crisis concern about the decline of empathy and other social-emotional skills, were already growing among educators. Given the unprecedented and sudden shift to virtual learning from traditional face-to-face learning that teachers were forced to make… it is now more important than ever for us to understand the practical applications of exercising empathy in our student’s daily lives, and how we can recognize and reward their empathy in our classrooms and schools.

That is one reason I’m so excited to have joined the Peter R. Marsh Foundation as Program Director. Our Silent Servant Student Award Program offers schools a free Action Plan they can use to reward and recognize students who exercise empathy through Service Learning. It’s a fast, free and effective way that schools can be intentional about improving empathy in all their students.

For more information contact me at: warford.jim@gmail.com or here through www.jimwarford.com.

The Culture Cycle

About Jim Warford

Jim Warford is the author of, The Chemistry of Culture: Strategies You Can Use to Create a Culture of Learning. For 15 years Jim Warford was Senior Advisor and Keynote Speaker for the International Center for Leadership in Education. Jim is an author, speaker, Leadership and Instructional Coach. He was named in March 2003 as Florida’s first Chancellor of K12 Public Schools. He stepped down in September, 2005 to become Executive Director of the Florida Association of School Administrators, representing over 10,000 Florida school leaders. As a Senior Advisor for the International Center for Leadership in Education, he works with states, districts and schools to provide coaching and executive training and support to school leaders and their staffs. As Florida’s Chancellor, he led the creation and state-wide implementation of Florida’s Continuous Improvement Model, FCIM, which resulted in that state’s dramatic gains in student achievement and an 80% reduction in the number low-performing schools. FCIM remains Florida’s required intervention for all low-performing schools. As Superintendent of the Marion County, Florida Public Schools, he first implemented the Continuous Improvement Model district-wide. As a result, school grades went from three “F”, eight “D” and only one “A” school in 1999 to twenty “A”, 16 “B” and no “F” schools in 2003. Under his leadership the high school dropout rate was cut in half. He taught applied technology courses at the high school level for 17 years and created a Computer Graphics/Video Production program that won many national and state awards. He was named Vanguard High School Teacher of the Year three separate times.
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