Last year, Mattea and I participated in a Roots of Empathy program at our local elementary school. My friend Keri is the teacher, and although we homeschool, if I was to send my kids to school, she would be the teacher I would want. She is empathetic, and amazingly patient and kind to her students.
Anyway, as part of Roots of Empathy, Mattea and I went once a month (from the time she was 3 months to the time she was a year), and visited Keri’s kindergarten class. While there, the kids would watch Mattea and how she interacted with me and her environment, and they would watch for new milestones each month. We talked about learning through being loved, baby safety, how each baby is unique, how each of the students was at one time a baby, etc.
In between visits, Keri and her students talked about feelings, taking care of babies, and other subjects that would help them to see the uniqueness and variety in each of their classmates and themselves, and to value one another. It was a challenging group of kids with many strong personalities, but they really came to care for one another by the end of the year.
The Roots of Empathy program is available in many classrooms throughout Canada and is done with a variety of different age groups. It has been shown to reduce bullying, and to increase feelings of belonging and self-confidence for the students that participate. Mattea and I were honoured to be part of such a program. The students grow to love “their” baby by the end of the year. It was always so exciting for them to see us around the community, and we would hear them whispering to their parents that baby Mattea was over there.
At the end of the year, the students each drew Mattea a picture and wrote a wish for her. Here are some of their wishes.
I wish she pets an animal.
I wish you hope. I wish you a good life in your home.
I wish Mattea could do music.
I wish they have a good house. I wish Mattea could play the piano.
I wish you music. I wish you clouds.
I wish she likes her (new) home. (They knew we were moving).
I wish happiness and I wish fun.
I wish fishes.
I wish a place with music. I wish birds.
I wish good. I wish you good.
I wish that Mattea could play sports. (from the class tomboy…)
I wish they play games.
I wish you’ll come back.
I wish baby Mattea happiness.
I wish a hat.
I wish all, I wish fun.
I wish a happy good year.
I wish music.
So, to all of you reading this, Mattea and I wish you hope, music, and clouds.