Friday Reflection: The Role of Empathy


We reflect constantly… naturally as students notice, and at planned times.  On Fridays, each week includes a theme, media, reflection prompts, and a brief class discussion with compliments for individual students or for us a group. The entire process takes about 15 minutes on Monday when the media is introduced and 20 minutes or less on Friday once students get the hang of it, and this provides huge dividends when done consistently.

This week, students are exploring the importance of empathy in building a diverse, equitable society. They will need literacy, empathy, and activism over any other skills. Recently, the Black Lives Matter movement held a picnic with members and local police with the intention of knowing one other; empathy. We need to understand each other before any barriers are removed. It seems like an obvious step to some and ignites anger in others, maybe because we feel we’ve already made that step across or we were raised with our experiences and mindsets. If we really want to affect change, empathy is a necessary piece. Otherwise, we end up in the place we are now: Laws have changed, but too many minds have not.  If you’re interested, read Education Secretary John King’s thoughts on discussing racism and empathy in schools in the article “Education Secretary Urges Schools to Tackle Racism, Teach Empathy” by David Desroches.

Weekly Theme

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes

but in having new eyes.”

-Marcel Proust


In this weekly reflection, we view the short film “The Present” by Jacob Frey. This animated short is a perfect springboard for introducing empathy. The main character is angry and cruel toward a puppy his mom has given him as a gift. Naturally, viewers feel angry at the main character. It is not until the very end of the movie that viewers realize why the main character acted as he did. Once they realize why, they’re without a doubt empathetic toward him.

(I know this is a given, but be sure to view the video before playing it for students. It is appropriate for all levels, but please view it before showing it to them.)

*My students will watch this video once on Monday before we reflect on Friday. As we view it, we’ll make note of the Notice and Note Signposts to analyze character motivation, predict plot, and uncover themes. For more information about teaching the Signposts, see “Three Things I Learned by Doing My Own Signpost Assignment” and “Evolving Understandings: Dig Deep with Signposts“.

Reflection Prompts

  • What role has empathy played in your life? Discuss a time when you have experienced empathy or witnessed empathy. How did it make you feel?
  • Do you try to incorporate empathy into your daily life? How do you do this?

Student Discussion

  • Were there times when you found yourself empathizing with specific characters in the film? If so, which ones and why?
  • Were there times when you found it difficult to empathize with specific characters in the film? If so, which ones and why?
  • In our everyday activities, such as watching TV and movies, playing a video game, reading a book, or interacting with social media, where do you see the most empathy and the least amount of empathy?
  • What is the relationship between empathy and justice?

Reflecting on our learning, behavior, and feelings and making plans for our next steps accelerates growth in all areas. In our classroom, students reflect often. Without fail, we take time every Friday because it provides closure for the week and sets the stage for Mondays when we set weekly goals.


I’d love to hear what you’ve done with your students to help them create community, understand others, and work on social justice issues. Feel free to comment below or send a message.


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