The Festival of Education: Stepping into Empathy


No summer is complete without a trip to The Festival of Education! Well, no summer will be complete from now on, this being our first visit but most definitely not our last!

Held each year in the beautiful grounds of Wellington College, The Festival of Education is a chance for educators from across the country (and indeed further afield) to come together for two days and share inspiration, ideas, workshops, talks and educational aspirations.

ThoughtBox was delighted to be exhibiting at the Festival, and opened up our space for interactive activities during the two day "Swots Glasto" as coined by Bob Geldof, the ultimate in summer festivals...!
As part of our exhibit, we introduced the Step into Empathy challenge, a simple but effective way to get people thinking about the lives of other people and moving past the stereotypes:

We were pleased at how many of the students took part in the challenge, and were interested to talk with them about their preconceptions of the owner of the shoes and how they felt about them after walking around, literally, in their shoes.

Choose who's shoes you walk in...

Choose who's shoes you walk in...

...and step into Empathy

...and step into Empathy

During each of the two days, we ran brief ThoughtBox Thinking discussions, inviting members of the public to come and sit together and talk about a particular question, linking to our ThoughtBox topics. Questions such as "Is our help always helpful? (Voluntourism)", "Where do we all call home? (Immigration & Refugees) and "What on earth are we eating? (Food) were just some of the questions posed and the discussions mused by our ThoughtBox thinkers.


As well as talking with educators about ThoughtBox and our range of resources, workshops and training, we also introduced some simple classroom ideas to support empathy building and safe spaces for difficult discussions. One of these ideas is to have a "Wonderwall" in the school (or classroom) - a place for students to write down some of the questions that they wonder, and to look at some of the questions that those around them are also musing...


On a similar thread (if you'll pardon the pun) we introduced the "Line of Thought" - a similar idea to the Wonderwall, but this time something that can be hung in the classroom and students can write questions or thoughts on, which are then pegged onto the line and unpegged to be discussed at various points throughout the day or week. This is a great idea to have in the tutor base, as it allows students to peg up questions that they may have at any time, to be returned to and discussed in a safe space.

Talks ranged from the practical (Making Maths Fun) to the mysterious (What if everything you knew about learning was wrong?) to the insightful (How sausage-machine schools are damaging the teaching profession) to the inspired (Small is Beautiful).  It was a great pleasure to spend two days talking and sharing ideas and energies with teachers and educators and to make so many connections and new partnerships. 

Rachel Musson