I set off with some trepidation as I left the sunny climes of Northamptonshire to be part of my first BrewEd Herts event. I was a lone wolf taking it on alone. Subconsciously doing this by myself made it less real and so gave me a lovely protective bubble to keep it in perspective. This was only my second time of sharing my passion regarding empathy in a speaking capacity. Earlier this year I attended @EducatingNorthants and that opportunity had wet my appetite to share my thoughts and experiences further afield.

As soon as I arrived I was put at ease. Everyone was so welcoming. Clemmie was lovely and explained how the day would unfold. She had spoken at this event the year before and told me not to worry about timings as the whole day would just flow.

I was second to talk which was great as it didn’t give me time to worry. I had on my red Dorothy shoes to help me feel a bit braver and I truly think these did help me wend my way down my empathy road.

My talk ‘Follow the empathy road’ was my personal experience of my journey into the role empathy takes in my primary classroom setting and beyond.

This approach can be used with all, for all. One size does fit all. Brene Brown’s work especially her animations tipify the difference between empathy and sympathy. When we see a child, colleague or loved one in a metaphoric hole we need to resist the temptation to look down the hole and sympathise but blatantly get our ladder out put on our brave shoes (in my case they were my red Dorothy shoes) and climb down that ladder and stand in the hole beside the person who needs it. It’s not easy especially when the things these people are dealing with are so raw and so personal. Sometimes the act of being is enough. That in itself is pretty powerful.

What we have to give the individual is our time. Listening is pivotal and by that I mean real listening. In my experience by modelling empathy individuals will mirror it back. I have had times in my classroom when I’ve felt a bit low and needed kindness. Children who find the act of kindness and empathy challenging have come over to me and modelled my approach back to me. Now that is mind blowing.

To empathise is to give ourselves up to our own vulnerability and find a part of us that can relate to what this individual is going through. It’s hard and it’s tiring. Sometimes we can’t  relate to what is happening and then we need to verbalise it with words such as ‘I can’t imagine what you must be going through.’ We haven’t got the answers. What we have got is time, time to listen, time to be with them. That in itself is pure gold.

Everyone listened so intently which gave me confidence as I spoke. As I finished Jaz gave me a hug which was exactly what I needed. Emma was fab and we chatted over lunch about the topic of empathy in its many guises in our everyday life outside of the school gates.

The speakers I heard during the day were amazing and so passionate about what they truly believe in. I came away from BrewEdHerts feeling positive and empowered and ready to share the passion I have in this area to a wider audience.

Follow the empathy road. It is amazing how many others want to put on their Dorothy shoes and join you.