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Empathy and Understanding

It is a confluence of events on Friday of this week that informs my blog’s topic of the importance of empathy and understanding.

The first event, organized by our Round Square Committee, was a celebration of Round Square International’s 50th Anniversary. St. Clement’s School has been a member of this important international organization of schools from around the world for over 10 years. St. Clement’s School’s values and mission align beautifully with Round Square’s six IDEALS of Internationalism, Democracy, Environmentalism, Adventure, Leadership and Service. Many of our students and staff have had the benefit of attending its regional and international conferences, undertaking its service trips, and maintaining the resulting global connections. We were very pleased to welcome back Hilary Stone ’12 to speak at our celebratory assembly about her work with Western University’s Engineers Without Borders. Hilary was candid about the importance of listening to those with whom we work, as opposed to foisting our own ideas and beliefs upon others. As she reminded us, we must not assume that we are bringing the best approaches to a community but, rather, be empathetic and ensure that we are understanding others’ perspectives.

After this assembly, Ms Macintosh and I hosted a student meeting about diversity to further conversations that started in February. The discussion was excellent, with our girls explaining what diversity meant to them, and what experiences they have had- good and bad. These diversity conversations will be ongoing, and it was agreed by everyone that in order to continue to foster open, honest engagement, our environment must reflect trust, respect and understanding.

Finally, as I left yesterday, I walked past our students’ art in the foyer, placed there for our Sights and Sounds of Spring celebration. One exhibit featured the work of students who had been tasked with designing a garment or article of clothing that captured the newfound learning of a person, or group of people, whom they wished to better understand. The quotation posted beside the girls’ work, attributed to The Empathy Museum, said “Art can help us look at the world through other people’s eyes. Empathy can not only transform our personal relationships but also help tackle global challenges such as prejudice, conflict and inequality.”

From start to finish, my days at St. Clement’s afford opportunities for learning. Friday was a great example, and I left for home reflecting on the importance of empathy and understanding to ensuring our community’s growth.

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