As a mom, one of the biggest lessons that I’ve been surprised to learn is just how simple yet difficult it can be to teach my kids to cultivate empathy for those around them. As they grow up, they are the center of their own universe and it is up to the grown-ups to help shape those little egos into compassionate and caring people.
Karen Wunderlich Loewe, a teacher from Collinsville Middle School in Collinsville, Oklahoma who is celebrating her 22nd year teaching knows what I’m talking about. On the very first day of school this year, she gave her students the lesson of a lifetime in what empathy is and it’s left the Internet in tears with swelling hearts as her viral post of the “The Baggage Activity” has been shared more than 560K times.
In her post, Loewe explains what the baggage game is and why she chose it.
“This starts my 22nd year of teaching middle school. Yesterday was quite possibly one of the most impactful days I have ever had,” Loewe wrote. “I tried a new activity called ‘The Baggage Activity’. I asked the kids what it meant to have baggage and they mostly said it was hurtful stuff you carry around on your shoulders.”
She then asked them to write down things that were bothering them, it could be anything. They were also asked not to sign their names – the goal was let the power anonymity give them the chance to write honestly about what’s really burdening them. One by one, the kids put their folded up pieces of paper in a bag hanging at the front of the class.
But then THIS happened.
“They picked up a piece of paper and took turns reading out loud what their classmate wrote,” Loewe explains in her post. “After a student read a paper, I asked who wrote that and if they cared to share. I’m here to tell you, I have never been so moved to tears as what these kids opened up and about and shared with the class.”
The kids opened up on topics that would break the hearts of the strongest among us including suicide, parents in prison, drugs, abandonment, death, illness, and so much more.
“The kids who read the papers would cry because what they were reading was tough,” she wrote. “The person who shared (if they chose to tell us it was them) would cry sometimes too. It was an emotionally draining day, but I firmly believe my kids will judge a little less, love a little more, and forgive a little faster.”
That bag full of emotional baggage now hangs by her classroom door to remind her kids that even though we all have baggage, it can be left at door – literally and figuratively.
Talk about an amazing teacher and a marvelous opportunity for growth and bonding for those kids!