Even a Fleeting Phrase

Submitted By:
Meghan Tally, Upper School English Tutor, Davidson, NC

The Most Important Writing Exercise I’ve Ever Assigned by Rachel Kadish
NY Times, February 18, 2024

That Numbness You’re Feeling: There’s a Word for It by Adam Grant
NY Times, January 1, 2024

For more than twenty years with students of all ages, Rachel Kadish has assigned versions of the same exercise: her students write a monologue from the perspective of someone who says something they find abhorrent, and “there has to be an instant – even a fleeting phrase – in which we can feel empathy for the speaker.” She explains, “Good fiction pulls off a magic trick of absurd power: It makes us care.” Focusing on taking action, Adam Grant makes a distinction between compassion and empathy, however. Asserting that compassion is both healthier and kinder, Grant explains the difference: “Empathy absorbs others’ emotions as your own: ‘I’m hurting for you.’ Compassion focuses your action on their emotions: ‘I see that you’re hurting, and I’m here for you.’” How do our schools’ curricula and co-curricula interplay with this conversation? How are we preparing students to thrive as individuals, practice effective communication, and participate actively in local and global citizenship? As we reflect on our communities’ experiences of connection and consider applications for the latest research in neuroscience, these articles offer us compelling insights and provocations.

Leadership Practice
Psychology & Human Development
Current Events & Civic Engagement