The culture of learning at The British College of Brazil (BCB) is defined by a feeling that you get as soon as you walk through the school gates. It is a feeling that is not tangible but it is definitely there. When i arrived from Cambodia via Abu Dhabi thoroughly jet lagged the very next day upon arrival I was faced with a school community that was warm, understanding and supportive.
It is probably what all parents expect when they send their child to school, or at least hope but an environment that is defined by an empathetic school culture is not to be taken for granted. At BCB the school culture has developed since the schools inception and it is a privilege to work alongside our teachers to deliver the best education to our children. We are not talking just about strong academic results but a school needs to deliver holistically and to do that there must be a strong value base. At BCB we have 10 ways of being which are complemented by the IB Learner profile and the one that stands out for me is caring. Caring by definition is displaying concern for others, is this empathy? There is another word closely linked to empathy which is sympathy and one can draw a distinction between the two which is sympathy as a feeling with someone as opposed to empathy which is a feeling into, which demonstrates a deeper sense of understanding and connection.
So how do we teach empathy at BCB, well I witness everyday an authenticity in the way teachers teach. It is crucially not what teachers teach that is the be all and end all, it is the way they teach. To teach content is not enough and through the IB we have the crucial dimension of conceptual understanding. The ability to understand something/someone and put it/they into a new context is the very essence of being empathetic. We have all heard of ́put yourself in some else's shoes´ but how many of us can actually do this authentically.
Teaching empathy is a matter of affective empathy which involves a deep understanding of ourselves and then others. At BCB we try to think about the things we don't know and challenge ourselves to place the previously unknown into context and then into new contexts. Through the IB we look at others in the world with fresh eyes and theorise about what we think we know without the burden of belief. Our pupils here at BCB are lucky to have their education defined by the IB/BCB mindset and to be developed holistically with a strong sense of empathy.