The Misadventures of Kai and Pixel »

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Roots of Empathy

We had a very busy week here. I attended a three-day training course to become a volunteer instructor in a program called Roots of Empathy. This is a fantastic program which teaches school children emotional literary and responsive parenting. As a volunteer instructor, I will go into a Grade One classroom once a week throughout the school year. For a third of these visits, I will be joined by a family with a young baby. The children get to see the baby develop throughout the year and the program uses the baby and the baby’s relationship with his/her parent to demonstrate empathy. The research has shown that this program dramatically reduces bullying and increases pro-social behaviour in the classes where it is given.

I originally learned about this program last fall. I was watching the local news and they had a piece about Roots of Empathy. I was completely entranced as I couldn’t imagine anything more important than teaching children to talk about their feeling and to learn to understand the feelings of others. I then bought the book about the program written by its founder. I spent most of the time crying as I read the book (OK, I WAS pregnant…). In it, she tells lovely stories about how the presence of a baby in the classroom enables children to open up and talk about their feelings in a meaningful way.

I contacted the organization because I wanted to volunteer us to be a Roots family. Unfortunately Kai is a bit too old as the curriculum asks for a baby who is about two months old at the start of the school year. The woman I contacted asked if I would be interested in becoming an instructor… Well, I had certainly never considered it, but I had had fantasies about being a kindergarten teacher at one point, so it wasn’t a completely crazy idea. The only catch was that I would have to attend the three-day training course this week.

To Andreas’ credit, he recognized immediately that this was something that I should do and he rearranged his schedule so that he could look after Kai. I am so happy that he did because I met some interesting people and I know that this will be an experience which will be extremely meaningful for me. I’m sure that I will be writing often about my Roots experiences.

One thing I want to mention. There is a terrifying gender imbalance in those who volunteer and instruct the Roots of Empathy program. There was not a single man among us in Edmonton at least. As the mother of a little boy, this is very frightening to me because it is a very stark reminder that men are not encouraged in our society to participate in the realm of emotions. So if you are a guy and you are reading this and you are interested in the program – sign up and volunteer!!!! You will make the world a better place for little boys like Kai!

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