Ask little Peter Cournoyer, a second-grader at Rocketship Mateo Sheedy, what empathy means, and he describes it this way:
“It’s when you help someone if they need help or if they get hurt,” he says, (which he’s had to do a few times).
Empathy is one of Rocketship’s four “core values,” in addition to respect, responsibility, and persistence, which define the school’s culture and identity. The words are plastered all over the school’s walls as a reminder and reinforcement.
From the staff’s perspective, these values do more than just move students forward academically, says Joya Deutsch, a principal-in-training who will open a fourth Rocketship campus next fall. “It’s also about building character,” she says. “When they leave the fifth grade, we want them to be able to not just engage in middle school, but to be able to be successful as citizens in the community.”
Teachers hand out rockets for good behavior in class and all around school — a purple “Value” rocket for showing empathy, for example, when a friend falls on the playground and they help out. The rockets can then be redeemed for raffle or prize at the end of the week.
Intangible values like empathy and persistence can be woven through the school’s culture by reinforcing good behavior and by setting examples. But how do you teach critical thinking? Continue reading