Opinion
Student Well-Being Opinion

How to Spark Empathy During Test-Prep Season: Lessons From a 5th Grade Math Teacher in Brooklyn

May 14, 2019 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

- Adobe Stock @ Luis Louro

Editor’s note (6/11/19): The National Network of State Teachers of the Year, the organization whose members write for the Teacher-Leader Voices blog, has a financial relationship with Empatico that was not disclosed prior to this post’s publishing. For more information, see this note to readers.


But there’s just no time in the schedule!

Sigh.

Testing season is ramping up, and time is increasingly precious as state exams draw closer—especially in the charter school world. Frantic, overworked teachers trying to squeeze as many instructional hours into a school day as possible. We’re tired, the kids are exhausted, and the daylight is sparse, but on this particular Monday morning, my 5th graders are buzzing with excitement.

Are we seeing our Quebec buddies today?” I reassure them we are. I also remind them that they need to make sure they complete all of their work in their classes today so we can use the precious 40 minutes at the end of the day—usually reserved for small-group pull-outs and remediation—to video chat with our Empatico buddies. My students assure me they will be extra focused and well behaved for their classes today, and I can tell they’re motivated. The week is off to a solid start.

Making time in our busy schedule to use Empatico was the best teaching decision I made this year. The website is incredibly user/teacher-friendly and stocked full of free resources and activities.

The activities are grounded in academics and can easily be intertwined into an English, social studies, or writing class. As a math teacher, I use it with my homeroom class—at the end of the day every couple of weeks or so—to practice empathy in action. The students love to connect with our buddy class in Quebec, Canada, and ask to connect way more often that we are able.

It’s easy to connect your students with Empatico—even when time is short. Here are a few simple steps to get you started:

Step 1: Log-In to Empatico and Create a Profile

Shortly after creating a profile, you’ll be matched and can begin chatting with your buddy teacher to plan your first session all on the Empatico platform.

Step 2: Prepare Your Kids and Your Classroom

The big reveal was the best! We did a mini-lesson on where in the world was Quebec, looked at pictures, predicted similarities and differences, and talked openly and respectfully about our assumptions. From this brainstorm session, my students prepared a few questions they wanted to ask. I picked some of the better ones, wrote them on notecards, and we were ready!

Empatico has great tips for different ways to organize your students and the furniture in a classroom to be able to video chat effectively. Empatico understands that the technology struggle is real, so they provide a tech test you can (and should) run before connecting to flush out any video or audio bugs prior to your first live connection.

Step 3: Connect and Debrief

The Empatico website has all the tools you could need, including lessons on teaching respectful communication and other empathy-building skills. Some of my favorite activities are “Ways We Play”, “Community Cartographers,” and “Helping Hands"—though you will most likely find, after connecting with your buddy class, that the students take over and decide the content on their own.

Take some time to connect today. You’ll be glad you did! Then come back and share your experiences.


Danielle Roa teaches fifth grade math at Brooklyn Ascend Middle School in New York. She has been teaching for six years and has a passion for not only helping students become better mathematicians, but also helping them to love math as a subject.

The National Network of State Teachers of the Year believes expert teachers will lead the way to a more equitable and exceptional future for all kids. Do you agree?

Then help ensure that great teacher voices keep coming your way by donating to NNSTOY now. Donate Now

The opinions expressed in Teacher-Leader Voices are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Privacy & Security Webinar
K-12 Cybersecurity in the Real World: Lessons Learned & How to Protect Your School
Gain an expert understanding of how school districts can improve their cyber resilience and get ahead of cybersecurity challenges and threats.
Content provided by Microsoft
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Trauma-Informed Schools 101: Best Practices & Key Benefits
Learn how to develop a coordinated plan of action for addressing student trauma and
fostering supportive, healthy environments.
Content provided by Crisis Prevention Institute
Jobs Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Student Well-Being Teens Are Struggling With Climate Anxiety. Schools Haven't Caught Up Yet
Schools generally aren't ready to handle an increase in climate anxiety among youth.
12 min read
Jia Sharma-Chaube, 15, left, and Croix Hill, 16, students at Benjamin Franklin High School in New Orleans pose for a portrait at City Park in New Orleans, La., on Nov. 29, 2022.
Jia Sharma-Chaube, 15, left, and Croix Hill, 16, both students at Benjamin Franklin High School in New Orleans, are among the substantial number of young who feel anxious about climate change.
Student Well-Being Opinion A Lesson in Gift-Giving, According to Research
Here’s a new way to think about the holiday spirit for young and old alike.
1 min read
Images shows a stylized artistic landscape with soothing colors.
Getty
Student Well-Being Subtle Ways to Check on Students' Well-Being
Students sometimes don’t get help because they don’t want to stand out.
3 min read
Illustration of holding hands.
iStock/Getty Images Plus
Student Well-Being Flu, Colds, RSV: How Schools Can Help Keep Kids Healthy as Illness Increases This Winter
Drawing on lessons from the pandemic, schools can invest in air filtration and other tried-and-true health measures.
3 min read
Close-up of elementary student disinfecting hands at school due.
Drazen Zigic/iStock/Getty