Tiny teachers needed for Raglan Area School Roots of Empathy programme

Raglan Area School will welcome its tiniest teachers to the classroom this year thanks to a new programme designed to increase empathy.

Raglan Area School teacher Joe Rao and Raglan Kindergarten head teacher Isabel Crawforth recently undertook training in the Roots of Empathy programme, which builds emotional literacy in students and reduces aggression and bullying by bringing a local parent and baby into the classroom for regular visits.

“Thanks to the support of our principal Louisa Barham, Raglan Area School will be the first school in the Waikato to run this programme,” Joe says.

In the lead up to the baby coming into the classroom, Joe and Isabel will prepare the Year 7-10 students using specialised lessons and when baby is in the classroom, they coach the students to observe the baby’s development and to label the baby’s feelings.

Research shows that the emotional literacy taught in the programme creates safer and more caring classrooms; students are more competent in understanding their own feelings and the feelings of others and are therefore less likely to physically, psychologically and emotionally hurt each other through bullying and other cruelties.

“We learn to receive and give empathy in those very early years of infancy but the great thing is it’s never too late to learn,” Isabel says.

Joe and Isabel believe the programme is the perfect antidote to young people’s increased reliance on the Internet and social media to make connections with others.

“This programme is all about human to human connection and everyone can connect to a baby,” Isabel says.

“We’re creating space for young people to explore their emotional wellbeing in a supportive environment,” Joe says.

Paramount to the programme is the baby, aged between two to four months, who will attend a classroom session once a month for the year with their parent/caregiver.

Joe and Isabel are reaching out to new parents in Whaingaroa to support the programme and offer their babies as Roots of Empathy tiny teachers.

Janine Jackson

For more information contact Joe –  joseph_rao@raglanarea.school.nz or Isabel – isabel@maxnet.co.nz.