Empathy. Inclusion. Acceptance. Kindness. Respect.
These are qualities we want our communities to exemplify. These are qualities we often seek to directly cultivate in our schools. Anti-bullying programs, multi-cultural clubs, and policies supporting LGTBQ students, are positive initiatives that move us away from ignorance and towards greater understanding.
My fear is that these kinds of explicit programs/policies, on their own, can not nurture the culture of care we desire. The qualities we seek require ongoing attention to bloom. They must be cultivated across grade levels and subject areas each and every day. I believe all teachers can play a role by educating the imaginative capacities of their students.
Without imagination it is impossible to empathize. It is imagination—the ability to envision the possible—that enables us to feel another’s point of view. Imagination allows us to “take on”—to some small degree—another’s perspective. Imagination allows us to experience the world differently. Imagination is a capacity of the mind that engages our emotions and can connect us in meaningful ways to our near (and distant) neighbours.
So next time you talk about cultivating empathy—or inclusion or acceptance or kindness or respect—in your school, I urge you to also talk about pedagogy, and how (or if) the ways you teach enrich the flexibility and richness of your students’ thinking.
Educating the imagination is not a “quick fix” but it does contribute to the culture of care we seek for our schools and communities.
More about imagination-focused pedagogy: www.educationthatinspires.ca