Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 4/3/2019 (734 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Roots of Empathy (ROE) is a national and international renowned program that was first introduced into classrooms by the previous government nearly two decades ago.
After extensive testing and evaluation, the program was found to decrease aggression and increase pro-social behaviour in participating students. Thousands of Manitoba students participate in ROE each year.
ROE introduces a baby, ideally between two and four months into a classroom — as the "baby teacher" in the early fall, returning every month thereafter for the students to see how the baby has grown and evolved. Class time is set aside both before and after each visit for students to reflect on the experience of the visit and to prepare for the next session. Throughout the course of the school year, the bond between the "baby teacher" and participating students grows ever wider and the roots of empathy ever deeper.
Though I’ve long known about the program, I’ve never seen it in action until last week when I visited my daughter Sarah’s Grade 1 class at General Byng School. Sarah and her son Jacob had been the Mom and "baby teacher" a year earlier at Dr. D.W. Penner School and she was determined to introduce it into her own class when she returned from maternity leave this year.
At General Byng, the program is led by the school’s superb resource teacher and is fully supported by the school’s administration. Sarah’s class first met with mom Jenna and beautiful "Baby Teacher" Summer for the first time last October and it was truly amazing to watch the interaction between them. Armed with predictions about how much Summer had grown since the last visit and numerous questions about her ongoing development, there was no doubt that a profound connection had grown between the students, mom, and baby.
Sarah said learning about how babies communicate their feelings helps her students identify and reflect on their own feelings and connect them to the feelings of others. As they go through the curriculum, students are better able to develop empathy for their peers while experiencing their own personal social and emotional growth.
As the class concluded with the students singing a wonderful goodbye song for Mom Jenna and Baby Summer, I was feeling more than a little emotional myself. It was also a powerful reminder of the fabulous things that go on in classrooms across Manitoba every day and the magnificent work our teachers do to help our children become caring people.
Fort Garry-Riverview constituency report
James Allum was the NDP MLA for Fort Garry-Riverview until 2019.