Design Thinking,  Leadership,  Personalization of Learning

Empathy is Always Worth the Time

There are days when we all probably ask ourselves, “Is anyone actually listening?!?” Then I read tweets from teachers like this, and I realize the ripple effects from a pebble can travel much farther than seen from shore.

A Tweet from Meg Money about using empathy mapping with her students

Meg is one of those teachers I get excited to know and work with because she is willing to reflect on her practices as she continuously looks for connections that make a difference for students. After the above tweet, I asked her to blog this experience for others. Since she doesn’t have her own blog, I am giving her the space here to share. So this is Meg’s story in her own words…


There’s a little saying that goes, “a stitch in time saves nine.”  
Is Empathy Mapping worth the time?
By: Meg Money, Sycamore Ridge 4th Grade teacher

“As teachers, how do you want to invest your time?” Ron Ritchhart, Harvard’s Project Zero, asked a cohort of DMUSD teachers recently. This question has replayed in my mind time after time since.  Last week I was at a crossroads; time or making a difference? You see, our 4th grade class was in the thick of a Design Thinking challenge. All groups were collaborating ferociously and productively…all but one. But hey, it was my fault. I designed that group knowing that it had a 50-50 chance of working. This group of three included  kids who were bright and capable in their own right but different as day and night. Unfortunately I didn’t play my cards right, and now I had a group on my hands that had potential but was so far behind because productivity and collaboration were nonexistent.

Now comes in the saying, “Timing is everything.” Fast forward two weeks to another training led by our very own DMUSD Design Team.  Paula (@CDMDreamers) and Sarah (@SarahZRaskin) led us through a Empathy Mapping exercise, and a light bulb went on. This is what my lagging group lacked… Empathy! However, this would take time; time a group was running out of.

“How should I invest my time?” replayed one more time in my head. Yes, this is exactly what this trio of budding engineers deserved. They deserved to feel safe in a group and showcase their talents. Their assigned grouping shouldn’t be the barrier holding them back.

I wasted no time and asked the group how they were feeling halfway through the research/prototyping phase. As you can imagine, they were frustrated and asked if they could just work alone. It was then I suggested that we come together and build empathy through the mapping exercise.

What happened from there surpassed every expectation I’d anticipated. The kids were open, honest, polite and so insightful. They really didn’t need much prompting; they got it! They created NEED statements that immediately inspired them to hurry back to their learning. I watched in AWE as this group of young scholars immediately started approaching a difficult task with empathy and producing with the maturity of adults. I’m not going to lie, I had tears, goosebumps, and a swollen heart.

So, was this worth the TIME? Oh, you have no idea. Just ask the group members.

“Ms. Money, thank you for taking the time to do the mapping with us,” said one student.

“This was the best day of the year,” another added with a hug.

“Ms. Money, hurry, come see our idea!” shouted one from across the room.

I will forever be reminded of this experience that truly confirmed that helping students find their potential and giving them a chance at success is absolutely worth the time. Empathy Mapping is now the frontrunner of my long list of “Must Explore and Practice” list. It is worth every second of TIME!

Connect with Meg on Twitter at @mmoneydmusd

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