Thursday, October 31, 2013

Empathy 101 read a story

It's hard work growing up and nobody said it was easy to be a good parent. Children need attention, love and guidance to thrive. A child's emotional intelligence is key to their personal success and happiness. Empathy is one of the most important qualities parents can help their child develop and comes into being with cultivation, modeling and experiencing empathy first hand.

Empathy is an emotional trait that determines so much of who we are, how we think, and what we do. Children learn to practice empathy by watching their parents and by experiencing it themselves--being treated well by adults who respond warmly to their feelings. 

Boys and girls develop differently in terms of acquiring and being able to feel and respond with empathy. The ability to take others' perspective begins rising steadily in girls at age 13, but boys don't begin until age 15 to show gains in perspective taking.

Parents can play an important role to help instill empathy in both their sons and daughters by encouraging their children to “walk in another person’s shoes,” and there is no better way to think and feel yourself into another person’s shoes than to step inside their story. Reading a person’s story enlarges an individual’s experience of the world and stories stir our emotions and make us feel. In attempting to understand, empathy counts for much. And the literary experience becomes the passport to the entry into an experience.

When you know a person’s story, your empathy for the other grows and you begin to see that person as an individual. You begin to see that you have more in common than you might have imagined and your differences begin to fade in importance

The health and well being of the world depend on fathers and mothers taking an active role in encouraging their children to develop empathy. Their children and the world will be better for it.

I try and never forget something Teddy Roosevelt said:  “No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care”

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Education in China and the United States: how do they compare?

I began working in China in 1998 and I just returned from my 18th trip. Reflecting over those many years I realized that certain qualities about education in China stand out. I know how foolish it is to speak in such broad and general terms but I want to share with you what I noticed back in 1998 and what I continue to notice in 2013. A recent article in the NYT, The Shanghai Secret flagged some observations I also hold about the attitude and application of certain educational beliefs of the Chinese. First there is a deep, commitment to teacher training, which encourages peer-to-peer learning and professional development. Second, there is a deep involvement of parents in their children's learning. Third, this is a culture that prizes education and respects teachers. Emphasis is put on giving teachers time to deepen their knowledge of what they are teaching along with professional development that fine tunes their teaching skills. In addition, schools emphasize "parent training."

Parents of young children often ask me what schools are best for their child. I don't have a specific answer but I tell them to pay attention to how schools value and support their school community. First, how much of a priority does the school give to professional development? Second, what kind of Parent Ed does the school provide? Thirdly, look at the degree of parental involvement. Studies have found that parental engagement is a reliable indicator of a child’s success in school.

American education might lag behind in certain areas and we have much to learn from other countries but I always return to my work here in the US with a sense of pride in what we do best. I know of no other culture that prizes creativity and innovation, which are our strengths. If we can learn from the Chinese and apply the three criteria they apply to education, we will have a winning equation and other countries will continue to look to learn from our strengths.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Diane begins a new Adult literary Series

Diane will begin her 2013/14 Literary Series in December. The series meets in San Francisco, once a month, Tuesday and Thursday from 8:30-11am, from early December through early May. Diane will also be doing a St Helena Napa series on Friday mornings in St Helena. The St Helena Series meets from 9-11:30am. Space is limited and is on a fist come, fist serve basis. For more information, contact Diane.

Diane will be presenting at the Nueva School Innovative Learning Conference, October 17 & 18, 2013.

Monday, October 14th, 2013
More than 60 internationally acclaimed speakers and scholars will present at the Nueva School Conference. For more information:

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Books that make a sound in your heart.

The New York Public Library is risking the wrath of kids of all ages with a new list of the 100 most popular children’s books of the last 100 years that omits many favorites. Read more:

I relish the debate! The love of a book is like a love affair and to mess with it is serious business, as it should be. My love of a book often verges on feeling sacred— and once I love a book, it becomes mine forever. What makes the books I read so powerful? Reading does for me what travel does. I go places and meet new people, and quite often, the people I meet change my life. It is as I had my very own fairy godmother who continually puts books on my path.

So the NY Public Library’s new list of best books is cause for celebration. Do I love every book on list— absolutely not!  My list of favorites looks very different —which books are on your list?  My criteria for a book becoming an evergreen favorite is that it must make an indelible sound in my heart.

Let the conversation over what are your favorite reads begin and continue forever.  Lucky us who are readers!