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Jerry Large | Baby, what a lesson! Kids learn a little empathy | Seattle Times Newspaper - 1 views

  • What makes Asa Berg such an effective third-grade teacher is that he is not quite 11 months old.

    It's an ideal age for the subject he's been teaching for more than half his life. The course is called Roots of Empathy. Asa is teaching the students about emotions, and his are right on the surface, easy to observe.

    In 47 classrooms around Puget Sound, in seven public-school districts and seven private schools, babies are part of the learning experience.

    The idea, which began in Canada and is spreading in the United States, is that children need to learn more than letters and numbers, they need emotional and social literacy in order to learn well now, and to grow into good parents and constructive citizens.

  • "I was a kindergarten teacher and I realized early on, as in the first week, that there was a great injustice, that some children came to school so ready to learn and a lot came with a lot of problems that prevented them from taking advantage of what schools had to offer," she said.
  • The program finds mothers or fathers from the neighborhood around each school. They don't look for super parents, just caring ones who are doing a good job with their own children.

    The students learn to read other people's emotions by watching the baby and parent interact, and they learn to think about the underlying causes of various behaviors.

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  • Studies have shown reduced levels of aggression in schools that use the program. Kids are more attuned to each other's feelings and they police each other. But bullying prevention is just a side benefit. The core purpose is breaking that cycle.
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