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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Awakened again

A teacher moves from empathy to prayer to gratitude

Can a teacher ever have too much empathy?” asked the middle-aged administrator with the black slicked-back hair on my first interview for a teaching job. He asked it with a smirk, seeming to enjoy watching me squirm at the small table as I probed my mind for some form of an intelligent response. My trickling fountains of sympathy were overflowing back then­—fresh from student teaching at an urban school in Waterloo, Iowa.

Randy Bergman shares empathy and math
Randy Bergman shares empathy and math skills with middle-school students in Hammond, Wis.
I had come into direct contact with children of all races, refugees from war-torn Bosnia, impoverished families and abusive homes. Twelve-year-olds who had no one in their life to truly call mom or dad or a real place to call their home consumed my thoughts. I was with these children for just a short time. So my hesitant answer to this man’s question was a reluctant but somewhat confident: “Yes, a teacher can become so filled with emotions for his students that it may get in the way of his ability to teach.”


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