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Fostering Empathy in the Classroom

parent with daughter

If we had more understanding of each other... would it help us to have more care about each other?

by M Sumyyah Bilal, EUREKA's Director

This is a critical question with which we are faced today. It is an issue for all of us but it is a critical one for our high school youth.

At EUREKA we do not claim to have a magical solution for this issue, but we do have tools which can enhance this understanding. An understanding of others begins with an understanding of ourselves.

"The greatest struggle we have in this life is with ourselves." If we learned this at an early age we would not blame others for our problems so easily.

A true story: I did a career decision making presentation for a group of high school seniors in Oakland Unified School District. A young woman, who was a bit heavy-set and dressed in pants and a big jacket, raised her hand. She said: "I hear what you are saying, but I have a hard time. I don't tell nobody what I really want to do because they will call me a loser." I asked her if she felt comfortable enough to share her desired career with us. She took a moment and nervously looked around the room. Then she said after taking a deep breath... "I know everyone is going to laugh and call me a loser... because I want to be a plumber. Here everybody says they want to go to college even when they know they isn't going. So, I don't share 'cause I don't want to be called a loser."

I am happy to report that after we discussed this as a group. Others began to support her. She gained some confidence and agreed to appear on a district sponsored TV show on careers.

At EUREKA we do not claim to have a magical fast acting solution that'll help us solve this issue overnight, but we do have tools. Tools which can assist students in learning how to focus on who they are, rather than seeking self-esteem through the eyes of others. Learning to respect and appreciate yourself can be a powerful weapon for changing a culture.

We offer six different self-assessments that give students the opportunity to look at themselves from completely different perspectives. We offer the chance to integrate guidance activities into the classroom, getting the students to connect based upon personality traits and skill sets that they sometimes have never considered. EUREKA can also help students to understand each other, better communicate with each other and how to work together. Students who feel left out, may become more involved. Students who did not communicate with each other may begin to. They may even become more open to discussing issues with teachers and counselors.


About M Sumyyah Bilal

M Sumyyah Bilal's experience with computerized career information delivery began in 1979, as a member of the Florida SOICC's staff. Then she was Director of the Montana Career Information System from 1981-1986. She has been Executive Director of EUREKA, the California Career Information System since 1986. Other careers include secondary and college teaching, career counseling, and program design and administration.

Her education includes a bachelor's degree from Tennessee State University, a Master of Arts degree from the University of San Francisco, and the most tangible education of all, on-the-job training.

Questions about EUREKA?

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STUDENT TESTIMONIAL: Student's Survey Response to: What were you looking for when you came to EUREKA?

Honestly, answers! What I mean by that is I have tons of questions and I'm curious about this and that. However, I am a quiet person who does not like to be laughed at, so I tend to keep those questions to myself.