As we start another school year with the backdrop of the pandemic, we hear in the news a strong focus on a “gap” children will be facing. It has many names: the ‘achievement gap’, ‘COVID learning gap’, ‘learning loss’, ‘pandemic slide’ etc. Teachers and students faced many challenges with the switch to online learning, and coping with the affects of the pandemic in many other aspects of their lives – this ultimately affected students’ ability to learn. Teachers, administrators and scholars are sounding the alarm that this ‘loss’ or ‘gap’ brought on by disrupted school years may have long-lasting impacts on children’s academic achievement.
But there is another gap which is equally as important and needs to be addressed in order for children to recover from their academic losses. The parallel gap is children’s loss of opportunities to develop socially and emotionally as they normally would if they were in their own classroom with their peers and teacher. We cannot expect children to be able to learn academically when they are socially and emotionally dysregulated.
Teachers play an increasingly important role in this as they are powerful players in supporting children’s mental health. Additionally, post-pandemic classroom management can be challenging.
Teachers report that children lack the social skills to interact, problem-solve, and get along with their peers.  With teachers’ overwhelming responsibility to manage children’s academic success as well as support children’s mental health, we want to support them in children’s emotional and social ‘success’!
This is where Roots of Empathy can lessen the burden for teachers, and “do the reaching that will help with the teaching”. Students can begin to regulate their emotions as they become comfortable understanding them and gain confidence in speaking about them. This is emotional literacy.
Our program guides students in reading the ROE baby’s emotional cues, and then coaches the students to identify those same emotions in themselves. Through discussion, the children come to understand that they all share similar feelings and the classroom teacher who is observing has an opportunity to connect with their students’ emotional vulnerability and strengths.
The pandemic has brought about tremendous change for children. With new restrictions and drastically reduced interaction time with peers, extended family, and their community. Children’s mental health has taken a tole, but when children understand their feelings and are able to talk about them, their mental health is promoted.
Our program gives students opportunities to connect to their peers, make friends, and realize they are not alone with their emotions.
With your support, and the energy of our amazing team at Roots of Empathy, we remain motivated and dedicated to delivering our Roots of Empathy programme (and its younger sibling, Seeds of Empathy, for 3 to 5 year-olds in child care) to as many students we can reach starting this fall. It is a chance to empower more children to understand themselves, and build relationships with both their peers and their teachers. School isn’t just about learning, it’s also about relating.
Here is to a happy and productive year!
 Cohen & Willemsen, 2022; Bayrami, 2022; Alphonso, 2022; GOV UK, 2022
Here are just a couple of illustrative stats from our pre-pandemic Global Annual Evaluation Report report:
- 92% of students reported learning that everybody has feelings. 79% of students reported better understanding how other people feel
- 88% of teachers strongly agreed or agreed that as a result of Roots of Empathy, students showed more prosocial behaviour (e.g., sharing, helping, cooperating) by the end of the school year
Over two decades of independent research has demonstrated that the Roots of Empathy program reduces bullying, increases sharing, caring, kindness and inclusion, and promotes resilience, and positive mental health and well-being in children. Further, teachers and students who’ve experienced the programme in their classroom resoundingly confirm its effectiveness.