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An Interview and a Tip from a Changemaker Educator

At Dibert Community School in New Orleans, Louisiana, Carrie Craven is taking strides towards making empathy a cornerstone of the school’s culture.

By Laura White

In May 2012, Laura graduated from Tulane University with a B.A. in Political Economy. While at Tulane, Laura brought her Youth Venture project, Swim 4 Success, to New Orleans, LA, and was a founding member of Tulane’s Ashoka U Changemaker Campus team. As a member of the Empathy Initiative, Laura manages the Changemaker Schools network, a group of schools that have given empathy as much priority as math and literacy. Laura is passionate about changemaker education, empathy, and transforming early childhood education.

November 27, 2012

According to teacher Carrie Craven, teaching had always appealed to her because “it seemed like the most impactful way to change the world.” After graduating from college and working at a domestic violence shelter, Craven applied to and was accepted into Teach for America. Now Dibert Community School’s Social and Emotional Interventionist, a role that was created for her after she led projects in social and emotional learning above and beyond her role as a part-time interventionist, Craven spends her time developing innovative ways to help teachers cultivate empathy in their students.

Although empathy is not a named value at Dibert, according to Craven, empathy is a skill that is necessary to realize the school’s values: focus, integrity, respect, self-determination, and teamwork. With this understanding in mind, Craven has been helping the Dibert staff weave feeling language into their classrooms and core content lessons. Partnering with teachers and showing the value-add of social and emotional learning, Craven hopes to take a page from Paul Tough’s recent book and make noncognitive skills like grit, curiosity, and empathy as emphasized as academic learning at her school.

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One of the ways that Craven and the teachers at Dibert Community School have found to cultivate empathy in students is incorporating empathy into the “exit ticket.” A common strategy among teachers, exit tickets are questions that teachers ask at the end of a lesson to summarize the big ideas. Drawing on lessons learned through the MindUP program, Craven suggests adding a feelings scale at the bottom of the exit ticket or including a question asking when the students felt best during the lesson. This is critical information for teachers, allowing them to gauge their students’ stress levels or the parts of the lessons that were most engaging. Try doing an exit ticket with your class, or adapt it for dinner table or bedtime reflection!