Tuesday, May 15, 2001

A Lesson in Empathy Today

Today students had a chance to role play as Timothy and Phillip.

In The Cay, by Theodore Taylor, Phillip and Timothy are stranded on an island after their ship was torpedoed (WWII). Phillip was going home to Virginia from Curacao with his mother who thought things would be safer there. Timothy is a worker in the boat. After spending some time afloat on a raft, they land on a deserted island. Timothy, in his 70's, is a black man from St. Thomas. Phillip is an eleven-year-old white kid who has learned prejudice from his mother. He is dealing with his new blindness from an injury when the boat was torpedoed, his fear of being alone and his distrust of Timothy.

The scene the students played was when Timothy tried to teach Phillip how to weave mats. Phillip says he can't because of his blindness and Timothy insists that he does. He is trying to help Phillip become more independent and self-reliant. Phillip doesn't appreciate it.

After students had a chance to be Timothy as teacher and Phillip as learner with handicap, we discussed what they experienced and how they felt. I entroduced "empathy" to them and related it to the classroom also.

I know that no one learns empathy from one classroom lesson but I'm hoping that the experience may give them a new direction of thought sometimes.

Too Little Too Late

Today I had a call from a parent of another failing student--failing all year. She was concerned about his last assignment and wondered whether (in the last couple of weeks!!) Tim had a chance of passing. Not to mention that he still does nothing in class. No further comment.

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