Substitute Service Project: Empathy in the Classroom Part 2

Sep 25, 2018

Empathy is the ability to share and understand the feeling of another being.  This can be a challenge for some children (and adults).

Back in July, I wrote a post about why I was working on empathy more in the classroom this year. This is part two.

One hot summer afternoon, I was chatting about service projects with my friend Stephanie, plus thinking about the empathy in the classroom.  And it hit me.  Why not combine the two?  So what was born from this thinking, was a school wide project to help substitute teachers feel more welcome in my school.

First step...get students to understand how substitute teachers feel about coming into a classroom that they have never been in before.  So we brainstormed how that must feel.  As we discussed these feelings and why they may feel that way, I wrote the feelings down.

Then I read them a book.

Dear Substitute actually hits upon the feelings of this little girl when her teacher is absent for the day.  It is written in a series of letters to things or people in her classroom.  Here are a couple of examples:

 As we read about how this little girl is feeling, we went back to our list of emotions that the substitute teacher may be having.  We realized that many of the feelings are the same.  And how this is true in our school, as well.  We may feel uneasy having a substitute but the guest teacher is feeling just as uneasy.

This led to a brainstorming session to answer the question...What can we do to make substitute teachers feel more welcome at our school?

 It may look messy...but it was our work in progress.  We wrote down any ideas that we could think of and then we sorted them out to make our plan.

Once the plan was established (you can see it on the right side of the yellow paper), I needed a team of kids to help pull it all together.  So I put out an application.  Students could apply to make the bulletin board or to assemble our welcome bags (plus hand them out to subs when they come).  The first and second graders in my building could apply and it was a simple application.  "Why do you want this job?"

The teams were established.  And it was time for the hard work to begin!

We started with the bulletin board.  I asked what they thought.  They told me.  And I gathered all the materials. The rest was up to them (except stapling...they were not tall enough).

Then it was time to make the bags.  First grade students decorated brown paper bags.  Second grade students wrote thank you cards.  The team of students assembled the bags.  Each bag had a mint, water bottle, pencil, and thank you card.

Once all of it was put up and stuffed in, the final product looked like this:

Now we wait for substitute teachers to enter our school.  But the foundation for empathy has been laid.  And now we build off of it.

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