Press release from Rumson Country Day School
There was a high demand for tissues in the auditorium at the Rumson Country Day School when internationally recognized educator, speaker and best-selling author Dr. Michele Borba shared emotional anecdotes and studies to support the central theme of her book Unselfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in this All-About-Me World.
Hosted by the RCDS Parent Council, Dr. Borba’s visit as a guest speaker on Wednesday, November 4 ignited a necessary conversation about fostering empathy in children and even adults. About 140 community parents and teachers came to campus to explore the subject, which is becoming a growing concern worldwide.
“It’s Humanity 101,” said Dr. Borba. “It takes a community to raise a child. Discussions like these allow everyone to hear the same message and help spread the word on the essential habits that instill empathy in our children. The more teachers and parents are on the same page, the easier it is to reinforce behavior.”
In order to collaborate, RCDS parents and teachers added Unselfie to their summer reading lists this year. Not your typical beach read, Unselfie delves deep into the growing empathy crisis among children today and explains what parents and educators must do to combat it.
“My goal is to encourage life practices that provide the empathy advantage,” Dr. Borba passionately explained. “There is a growing need to strengthen children’s empathy to change the cycle of youth thinking from ‘me’ to ‘we’. This gives children an immediate advantage on life including employability, critical thinking, altruistic leadership and global citizenship.”
“By nurturing our RCDS core values with children in the classroom and at home, we create a caring, empathetic mindset in our kids that sets them on a path toward being kind and resilient adults,” said first grade teacher Lisa Fallon. “In our morning meetings, we practice the habits of ‘we’ in face-to-face group encounters. Through the use of daily questions, greetings, and share time, we discuss and explore our classroom moral identity. This stimulates perspective-taking and self-reflection on what kind, honest, responsible, respectful things were accomplished that day.”
Dr. Borba elaborated on a number of these specific tools to cultivate empathy like making eye contact, praising kindness, encouraging emotional regulation and mindfulness. Her voice wavered only when she choked up from sharing heartstring-tugging stories of empathy successes, which triggered similar reactions from those in the audience.
“Dr. Borba had such a contagious energy. Her powerful presentation inspired each person in attendance,” said Deb Menkowitz, a mother of three. “It’s important to come together as a community to have conversations about timely topics that we care about and that affect all families. We all want to be the best parents we can be and raise awesome kids. It’s wonderful that RCDS can facilitate opportunities like this so we can work to better ourselves.”
A book signing and an insightful Q&A closed the evening. “You sound the same as the parents I’ve met with in Saudi Arabia, in Colombia – all over the world,” Dr. Borba concluded, further emphasizing that parents everywhere share common concerns regarding parenting and recognize that the empathy crisis is a global issue.
RCDS and its Parent Council will continue to provide keynote speaker opportunities throughout the 2017-2018 school year. Copies of Dr. Borba’s book Unselfie are available for purchase at River Road Books in Fair Haven. Visit www.micheleborba.com to learn more about the empathy advantage.