The Need for Empathy: My Reflection on the Semicolon EDU Project #semicolonEDU
I can’t say that I understand the many layers of depression or what it even means to suffer from depression. But, I do understand how labels can haunt you. In elementary school, I was diagnosed with dyslexia and this label has tried to define me my entire educational career. When I first started to blog in February 2011, I had my “coming out party” as the Dyslexic Professor. For years, I had been in the closet, ashamed that I learn differently and convinced no one would ever want to hire a dyslexic teacher. I might not know about depression specifcally, but I do know all about anxiety when it comes to the teacher asking you to read out loud in class or transcribing letters and numbers without even realizing it. Let me just say, I’ll never forget the time I was asked to read out loud in science class and mispronounced “organism” at least a dozen times. For me, I hid behind the class clown persona, so my peers would never know. It has been a heavy burden to carry around and to this day, I avoid reading a script. For those who know me, I have perfected the art of storytelling and rely on my memory and pied-piper personality.
This post is my attempt to talk about the need for more empathy in our schools and in our profession. Words hurt; labels hurt. Period.
Just yesterday, I read this piece in the New York Times, Empathy is Actually a Choice. My work at the University of Saint Joseph has focused around digital citizenship with an emphasis on empathy. This is the perfect time for us to embrace making a difference by providing our students ample opportunities to do empathy.
As we support the Semicolon EDU Project, let’s commit ourselves to breaking this cycle of fear and embarrassment. Let’s model for our students, parents and communities the need to humanize the person next to us, as well as the person across the screen. Let’s shatter any and all labels with an abundance of kindness and empathy.
*Thanks to one of my very first follows on Twitter, Nick Provenzano for having the courage to inspire us all! Another big thanks to one of my former graduate students, Nick Howley for being the student who was the first to ask me to look out a different lens, who changed my practice and welcomed me into the “tribe” as a safe haven for all – my semicolon logo is inspired because of you.
For more information: #semicolonEDU and #ProjectSemicolon