Lessons on Empathy & Compassion from the Classroom

Empathy and compassion are some of the greatest life lessons we can ever hope to learn. While expanding our minds is (and should be) a goal of our educational systems, lessons that help to expand our hearts are often (sadly) less of a focus.

In this award-winning documentary, Mr. Toshiro Kanamori — homeroom teacher of a fourth-grade class in a primary school in Kanazawa, northwest of Tokyo — takes a different approach.  In addition to lessons that cultivate intellectual understanding, Mr. Kanamori also focuses on lessons of the heart by teaching his students the importance and value of empathy, compassion, courage, openness, teamwork, community, coping, and integrity.  He connects theory with life.

As part of their curriculum, Mr. Kanamori asks his students to write their inner feelings in a notebook letter and read it aloud in front of the class.   By sharing their lives openly and honestly, the children learn lessons of living and begin to realize the importance of caring and connection.  “This is the most significant thing about the letters,” he says:

Empathy is the greatest thing.  There’s an expression I love: ‘Let People Live in Your Heart.’ There’s no limit on numbers.  They tell stories, and everyone shares their feelings.  When people really listen…they live in your heart forever. – Mr. Toshiro Kanamori

This film is an absolute inspiration — a shining example of the sorts of things we ought to be striving for (in our classrooms and beyond). Much gratitude to Mr. Kanamori and his students.

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