How Parents and Teachers Can Teach Empathy and Empowerment in the Aftermath of Tragedy

Joe Mazza shares how parents can help students have empathy and become empowered changemakers in the face of tragedy. In this special show, we give tips to parents and teachers about things they can do this season to help kids serve others affected by a tragedy.

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Below is an enhanced transcript, modified for your reading pleasure. All comments in the shaded green box are my own. For guests and hyperlinks to resources, scroll down.


Enhanced Transcript

How Parents Can Teach Empathy, Innovation, and Empowerment in the Aftermath of Tragedy

Link to show:
Date: Monday, November 27, 2017

Note to reader: This episode is a special episode. The portion with Joe Mazza has been transcribed below. The podcast has an additional 3 minutes from Vicki Davis with recommendations about how you can help children know how to help others affected by the tragedies of 2017 during the holiday season.

Vicki: So, Joe, you know, your child is going to remember many years from now, whenever facing another natural disaster, what you told her now. What do think that parents need to be telling their children now that matters and makes a difference for a lifetime?

Joe: I think Mr. Rogers’ words still ring true today, even though I’m in my forties, and I heard him speak when I was — you know, my son’s age. “Look for the helpers.” Identify where the help is coming from, how people are becoming heroes — not because of the fame and being recognized, but everyday common people can step up.

It doesn’t mean you have to have a disposable income to contribute here. Just writing a letter, just sending… I know that we’ve got tons of diapers left from when our babies were infants. I know diapers are a big need down there, so we’re boxing those up.

I think there’s also opportunities to say, “Hey, if a kid is like super high-tech and they’re really interested in — let’s say for example, drones — there’s a huge drone usage down in Houston, so they can identify where people might be stranded.

So I think we’re using lots of different technologies. I think Zello has been an app, and it’s a lot like Voxer. It’s a lot like a walkie-talkie, and people who have been looking for folks have been using that.

But I think that there’s a lot of low-hanging fruit for us to have conversations with kids and really center it in empathy, innovation, and empowerment. We really want to be empowering them to do something about it, whether that’s by themselves or with a friend or neighbor next door, with their class, with their school.

I just saw a master list of principals connecting with other principals in and around the Houston area to the rest of the country. So get out there, adopt a school in that area for the year, and make this more than just a one-shot deal.

How do you really invest in empathizing with a particular school or group of kids down south? Be with them, write them letters, help them recover from this as a team.

Vicki: We’ll include those links in the show notes, and i think the biggest thing I would urge, having been through it, is to remember. Don’t have the memory span of the media. (laughs) The media will move on long before those who were in this disaster.

Joe: Yeah! That’s a good point! I think we hit these really, really hard the second it happens, and then a couple months later you’re wondering, “I wonder how everything’s going out there?” Set reminders in your calendar — next week, next month, two months from now — to check back in. Keep those alive.

Vicki: Yeah. When we got hit with tornadoes, the disaster agency said, “Enjoy this two weeks, because everybody will forget about you then. It’ll be a new cycle.”

We just can’t forget, when people go through these things. They’re going to be living this for another year or two, and even longer, for the rest of their lives. We just have to encourage and be there for them, and help our kids remember that they have to remember.

Joe: Absolutely.

Vicki: So, teachers, this is a time to teach. Parents, it’s a time to teach, and it’s a time to talk. Kids need to talk, and we need to have these conversations and make that time.

Please don’t let the rush and the busy of your life cause you to forget these important conversations, and that kids are hurting and have questions, too. It’s just something that we need to take time to do.

Joe: If you’re a mom or a dad or a grandparent, any female or male role model for kids, if you’re saying things, if you’re donating, if you’re participating in some way, bring your kids with you. They need to see you in that element. Don’t just save it for when the kids are napping or when they’re at school. Make it a point to do things together as a family.

Let them see you role modeling. Your own response is hugely important. They see and soak up like a sponge everything we do. This is one of those really important life experiences where a lot of learning can happen, especially in the area of empathy at a young age.

Vicki: It sure can. I remember my oldest son, who’s now 22, helped me make sandwiches after some tornadoes hit my town. And he still remembers that, that we immediately sprung into action and made sandwiches for those who were hit.

So, we’ve had some wise advice from Joe Mazza. We’ll include information in the show notes so that you can follow him and all of the work that he does, helping all of us be better educators

Joe: Thanks, Vicki! It was great to talk to you today.

Listen to podcast episode for additional recommendations for how to help your students encourage others during this holiday season.

Transcribed by Kymberli Mulford

Joe Mazza, Bio as submitted

Former school principal, teacher, bilingual administrator, Dr. Joe Mazza spurs innovation across faculty, students, and alumni of the UPenn Mid-Career Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership. He is a frequent speaker, blogger, and podcaster both in the U.S. and internationally on family and community engagement, and brain-based online learning for students and adults. Mazza is a strong relationship builder committed to on-demand and online learning and ensuring students and adults at home and at school understand and harness the power of networks for learning. Mazza’s innovative work has been written about in fifteen books since 2005.

Blog: Dr. Joe Mazza


Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored podcast episode.” The company who sponsored it compensated me via cash payment, gift, or something else of value to include a reference to their product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will be good for my readers and are from companies I can recommend. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” This company has no impact on the editorial content of the show.

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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