Prof. Dr. Ionut Vladescu
University Alma Mater-Sibiu
For the education of the new generation the teachers must put into value their whole professional skill and capacity, aiming at building up the proper framework needed to shorten the distance between them and those whom they should share with the national and universal values. Such inter-personal relationship is based upon the mutual capacity of understanding, anticipation, and identification of partners (teacher and student), in order to be able of mutual trust needed for this purpose and opens the way to empathic communication between the educator and the educated person.
Basically, we consider important emphasizing from the very beginning that the investigation of the skills and vocation for instructive and educational activities (for which the sympathetic and empathic capacities play the role of guiding entity) are justified as necessity for achieving the progress of the entire educational process. It is hard to imagine the educational process developed without teachers able to create the proper educational atmosphere, establish efficient relationships with the students, and to build up the framework for communication, which can influence this process .
1. Definition of concepts: sympathy, empathy
Sympathy is a feeling, a personal reproduction of emotional distress of someone else and it implies sensitive life and emotional communication.
H. Wallon describes how sympathy appears to child (1, 2 years old) after jealousy. These two aspects of social feeling will give the future development of emotions.
A. Gasell thinks that sympathy and jealousy appear almost at the same time. J. Piaget considers sympathy and jealousy as feeling present from the age of two as first inter-individual sentiments with a hetero capitalization after the period of intra-individual feelings.
With Freud’s compulsion theory considers sympathy and empathy as being identification mechanisms which are to be found at the origin of group formation .
Sympathy is an emotional conscious state representing ‘feeling with’ a person or a person’s specific condition implying a mutual understanding of some moral, social aspects seen around.
Empathy is to guess what happens in somebody else without ignoring personal ego so as to avoid unity and togetherness. For Carl Rogers empathy means to enter, by a willed use of the imagination, another person's world and to analyze the inner aspects and the emotional attitudes of that person, to understand them as if they were yours but not judge them alt all .
Empathy is a psychic phenomenon of partial cognitive and affective unity of a person with a human model, known or evoked that can manifest either conscious or unconscious, visible or invisible, leading to constructive understanding and communication and a kind of affective transmission.
To be empathetic means to perceive the inner nature of somebody else and to create a state of identification with the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of others on the main condition ‘as if’. Empathy asks for a direct perception combined with the following cognitive elements: evocation, deduction and anticipation. To understand someone’s mind is unconventional, not always conscious and without lacking the sense of one own personality.
Reality produces a state of contagious affectivity, a spontaneous empathy when borrowing the other person feelings ignoring the causes which gave it. If empathy was imitation, any act, gesture we copy would cause an empathetic state.
To accept and understand child’s mind is not regression for a mature person or a childish imitation of manifestations but it is a mental conversion to the child‘s psychology in order to understand and help.
Max Scheler said about empathy that it is a process of affective reproduction of somebody else’s feelings, supposing prior knowledge and being rationally filtered. A teacher should show empathy and copy with his/her student’s psychology even if students are sympathetic or not because, the aim is not a common relation but a final efficient report of teaching-learning.
2. Empathy – major factor of pedagogical ability
Pedagogical ability represents a combination of skills a teacher should have to get good results in any activity in class. A teacher will manifest:
1. pedagogical calling, pedagogy love, belief in social, cultural values, awareness of personal responsibility for child, society,, humanity;
2. scientific background;
3. pedagogical training to become a creator, an artist in teaching activity;
4. intellectual qualities: intelligence, sense of observation, distributive attention, , deep, clear, systematic thinking, quick, rich imagination, good memory;
5. - affective features: kindness, generosity, joy, passion, enthusiasm,
- volitional features: firmness, determination, perseverance, intransigence, endurance, self-control
- moral features: unity between what is said and what is done, sense of proportion, good balanced report exigency-tolerance, honesty, modesty, impartiality.
Pedagogical ability is given by two distinct groups of necessary skills. A group assumes pedagogy framework with managing capacity to organize class, to disseminate information at an accessible level, creativity and interest in child’s work, possibility to combine class activity with outside school experience, modeling teaching objectives to life demands. Another group is formed by personality characteristics such as scientific curiosity, working capacity, self-control, emotional attitudes, good, creative imagination .
Vasile Pavelcu suggests that the art of teaching asks not only for good mastery of knowledge, clarity and vividness in conveying it with scientific passion to students, but also for a special ability to change places with the audience of any age. Empathy now should express a intellectual-affective reaction where love for children combines with the need to understand and help. “ One doesn’t play a role in front of a child aiming to personal or others humiliation but the purpose is to progress together, to have similar feelings as creators, to reiterate and verify accepted facts”(I. S. Firu).
The personal empathetic ability of a good teacher considers a specific identification model with the child correlated to a distant attitude that is necessary for a general perspective of the class group. Without a close report teacher-student, teacher- group of students an efficient relation cannot be possible.
The empathetic and sympathetic attitude will ensure the teacher the necessary influence on students to make them study,, to be motivated and manifest concern in learning and job option, to develop a moral behiavour in life. For many of the teachers such an attitude is permanently present in their relations with students with no efforts and special training in the domain will eliminate the risks and unexplained weak results of some teachers when compared to others.
3. Empathetic communication and teacher-student relationship
Modern pedagogy considers teacher-student relationship as being a report of high complexity based on a permanent dialogue between the two factors, a mutual communication where all personal abilities are involved. The teacher wants to establish and organize the educational strategy, to offer information according to the student’s system of understanding, to observe the attitudinal acquisitions and t o evaluate te results and for all these it is necessary a good knowledge of student’s psychology and the capacity to co-operate. The place of a student in education is therefore moved from a receptor to a creator of personal development. Dialogues teacher-students must be spontaneous and instructive, to make thought a divergent process, to cultivate research spirit, scientific curiosity and creativity in solving problems .
M. Marchand has an attempt to find three typical educative models according to teacher’s experience, students in class and social conditions. He first discovers the undetermined, egotistic, ordinary teacher who ignores students’ life; then it is the egocentric teacher always creating tension with the students; a last model is of the teacher communicating with the students, has good, friendly relations, can do everything to keep intellectual and affective stability in class. The major characteristic of personality of this type of teacher is the capacity to be open-hearted and minded. A real teacher has no intentions to command only to hide personal weaknesses or to be loved by students only to satisfy personal ego. Such teachers make projections in the students in front of them being more interested in those children who are like them or develop according to their teaching model.
Vasile Pavelcu reduces the complex relationship between teachers and their students to three types: the despotic teacher who doesn’t care what the students want, think and what are their reactions and opinions; the democratic type whose activity is modeling around class wishes and opinions; the liberal, indifferent teacher who has no implication, just waiting for the things to happen.
The despotic, dominant type makes students reluctant, they show doubt and instability, often creating introverted students manifesting anxiety, lack of initiative, sensitivity, and they have no self-esteem.
Opposing this type, the democratic teacher is the representative of a high manifestation of pedagogic and psychological skills. This position is given by the close connections and the reliability teacher and student have in each other. This educational relation has an active final purpose where innovation and creation are always reached. It is the condition to get to a free, independent personality.
Speaking about the liberal type, Vasile Pavelcu thinks of a somebody who career was wrongly chosen, has no good, strong aspirations, is a weak, shy person, avoiding difficulties, hidden in own, personal universe with no response to the outside factors .
4. The advantages of an empathetic attitude
Teaching is a process of permanent cooperation between teacher and student where each one has a well-defined statute: the teacher is the educative factor while the student is object and subjected to education. This process is ruled by authorities which enable free access to culture, inspire research, stimulate initiatives and active, creative participation of students in education. The relation sympathy – antipathy – indifference is given both by teacher’s attitude and by the student’s one being a reciprocal report that develops into an efficient communication. The emotional empathy and the predictive one appear when the teacher takes into consideration the real evaluation of students compared to students’ self-evaluation. A good, experienced teacher will be highly empathetic with a student with improper, school behiavour because it is necessary to understand student’s psychology and to enter and educate the inner area of preoccupations a child has.
This is the condition for students to adapt to the society demands, to discover personal abilities and use them in a constructive way, to overpass weaknesses and to develop a good individual image meant to progress and eliminate non values.
6. The dependence of empathetic attitude to teacher – student relationship
There is a triple dependence of the empathetic attitude in teacher-student relationship: teacher’s empathy to student, mutual empathy, student’s empathy to teacher. A teacher will often understand and anticipate the others people’s attitude sue to a sum of factors where sympathy, student’s personality or even the problems they create have an important role. A good teacher will always eliminate these factors which could work on the relation with the students.
According to a survey, most of teachers have more or less empathetic reactions towards the students, even the problems-creating ones. A better level of predictive empathy was noticed towards the problem students than towards those who never created problems.
A high level of empathy manifested by a teacher will give a good level of empathy of a student and the attitudinal process is to be observed the other way round. This projective capacity a person has, the ability to accept the others behaviour, the force to penetrate another person psychology is an essential quality someone gets in the process of discovering the others and it is manifested with individuals having similar capacities.
Teachers are empathetic and experienced people who want to get into students’ psychology and understand it. On the other way, most students accept their teachers’ influences and follow them. As teachers and students have a permanent inter-connection in class, the reciprocal empathy is highly possible, thus being a major functional link in the complex relational mechanism teacher –student .
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2. Deron Roland, Parot Francois. Dicţionar de psihologie. – Bucureşti: Editura Humanitas, 1999, p.719.
3. Deron Roland, Parot Francois. Dicţionar de psihologie. – Bucureşti: Editura Humanitas, 1999, p.284.
4. Neculau Adrian. Aptitudinea pedagogică, p.58.
5. Stroe Marcus, David Teodora, Predescu Adriana. Empatia şi relaţia profesor – elev. – Bucureşti: Editura Academiei,, 1987, p.41-46.
6. Pavelcu Vasile. Metamorfozele lumii interioare. – Iaşi: Editura Junimea, 1976, p.158-159.
7. Stroe Marcus, David Teodora, Predescu Adriana. Empatia şi relaţia profesor–elev. – Bucureşti: Editura Academiei,, 1987, p.76-89.