Labeling Emotions In Kids VS. Feeling Empathy

I was sitting in my economics class in high school, it was finals week. This class was a college credit for me so it was important that I did well. I studied the material and came prepared to get a good grade on my test, I knew the content and was prepared to show it. 

My teacher walked around the quiet room passing out the tests. He placed a one on my desk, and then put his hand on my shoulder. 

“You seem anxious,” he whispered, “Do you want to take this test in the resource room where you can sit in a quiet corner and focus better? It may help your anxiety.” 

Right away, I started to panic, was I anxious? Did I need a quiet room to test in? I was confident in my testing ability before, but this went out the window faster than my thoughts could finish processing. He told me I was anxious, so obviously I was. 

I truly know that my teacher meant well and that he never wanted to cause me more harm or anxiety. He was looking out for me, as well as other students, and tried feeling empathy and create genuine relationships with his students in order to teach us how we needed to be taught. 

But this experience made me think a lot about labeling a child’s emotions for them versus feeling empathy. What’s the difference? 

Labeling emotions is telling kids what they are feeling before they have the chance to tell you what they are feeling. 

Feeling empathy is giving a child the chance to process their own emotions, tell you what they are feeling, and then helping them feel those emotions. 

Emotions must be taught and understood so that students can label their feelings themselves before we create unnecessary labels for them, even if we are doing it out of the goodness of our hearts. 

Looking back on my experience of having a teacher label my emotions, I have thought many times about what a better approach might have been for him to take. 

Instead, he could have said: “How are you feeling about this test?” and waited to hear if I was confident, or worried. 

He could have also given me affirmation about my testing ability by saying, “I know you have worked hard in this class and to study for this test, especially when you came in during lunch to ask further questions on material you didn’t understand. You will do great.” 

It was a learning moment for me to watch what I was saying to my own students so that they can feel and process their own emotions, instead of me placing the burden of what I thought they were feeling on them. 

It took time, practice, and dedicated effort, but the results were worth it. 

What do you do to make sure you are genuinely feeling empathy instead of labeling emotions in your students? 

Teaching Students Who Are Naturally Organized, Responsible, and Leaders? You May Be Teaching An ENFJ

This is part of a series of using Myers Briggs personality types in the classroom. For more information, click here. For information on how to figure out your student’s MBTI type, click here. 

Extroverted
I(N)tuition
Feelings
Judgment 

ENFJ. Do you have a task-oriented student, who strives to be a leader, and shows empathy to peers? You may be teaching an ENFJ. Let’s break down each of the categories. 

Extroverted- These students love the interaction with other students. Group work is great for them, but they can also strive in personal work as well. 

Intuition- This means they are very future-thinkers. These students will plan future projects and ask what the next step is. They are also big-picture thinkers, meaning they may have a hard time analyzing small bits of information. 

Feelings- (Omit for students younger than 12) They can be very empathetic towards others because they make decisions mainly based on feelings. This can also cause them to take criticism harshly. 

Judgment-  These students are very organized and need structure. It’s not very common to find an ENFJ student with a messy desk or backpack, because they have a hard time functioning without order. 

So how do you teach these students? First, you need to understand that they need human interaction for energy. Allowing them time to work and talk with other students can do wonders for their attitudes. Too much independent study time can cause stress for them. 

Another thing to remember is that they are very into future thinking and planning. This can lead to daydreaming and idealistic thoughts, that can possibly be discouraging to them when realized that it cannot be carried through. It’s also typical for them to be put into positions where projects can become overwhelming or impossible for them because an ENFJ will go above and beyond what is asked to create something greater. 

(For kids over 12) being a feeler, ENFJs are incredibly empathetic, which is a great tool in making and keeping great friendships. Being extroverted and a feeler gives them the idea that everyone they come in contact with is a potential friend. However, they can be overly selfless and end up taking on more than they can handle in both their schoolwork and socially. 

You should also be aware that they are often asking “Who will this benefit?” They love to see the why behind their work. Once they have understood the whole concept, studied it, and internalized the information, they find excitement in their new-found knowledge. Sometimes to the point where they strive to assist others in learning it as well.

ENFJs need opportunities to lead, as well as possibilities to assist other peers. They are helpers with common future careers that involve teaching and helping others. Foster this need in them, let them lead and help where you can. Be wary with criticism, they may not take it well because of their emotional thinking since they never want to let anyone down. 

Do you teach any ENFJ students? What other tips do you have for teaching them? 

Inquiry into Feelings

Taking a break from my provocation series into the SDGs to write an inquiry into feelings. It was sparked by the first resource in this list, from the profound words of a second grader: “With friends, I don’t have to be happy.”

I think the best reason I can think of to stop and inquire into the nature of feelings is summed up by this quote from Brene Brown:

https://brenebrown.com/

How might an inquiry into the nature of feelings impact your students at any point in the school year? Use the resources below to find out!

Resource #1: Tweet from Hata Trbonja

Resource #2: Disney Pixar’s Inside Out trailer (also, this incredible scene when Sadness helps Riley make sense of memories that were once dominated by joy).

Resource #3: Feelings by Nate Milton

Resource #4: The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld

Resource #5: We Found a Hat by Jon Klassen

Resource #6: The Heart & The Bottle by Oliver Jeffers

Provocation Questions: 

  • What are feelings?
  • Why do we need feelings?
  • What is the purpose of feelings? All of them?
  • How can it be helpful for us to identify how we are feeling?
  • What are different perspectives people have when experiencing each emotion?
  • What is our responsibility to honor our feelings?
  • What would life be like without any emotions?

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto