Don’t Laugh at Me: Empathy and The Torn Heart

Don't Laugh at Me: Empathy and The Torn Heart The Torn Heart activity, lesson number four in the Don’t Laugh at Me Expressing Feelings theme, is such a classic anti-bullying activity that we wondered what we could add to our collective experience with it. It’s an oldie, but a goodie, as they say, and one which seems to be effective every time.

Ultimately, the Torn Heart is an activity about empathy: listening to a story with put-downs and feeling compassion, support, the desire to care for someone who is suffering. It’s a big concept and one that takes constant work for adults and for children, but it is absolutely one which can be taught, and, in fact, is an important gateway skill to other social and emotional competencies.

Empathy: Expressing Feelings

Of course, empathy often gets confused with sympathy. We love this video by Brené Brown which explains the difference by suggesting that empathy builds connections while sympathy creates divisions. Part of the process is really about getting in touch with our own experiences and the feelings we have about them, which is why this early lesson in empathy is in our expressing feelings theme.

Tiffany Quinlan, one of our favorite teachers in Clark County, Nevada, helps her high school students connect to their own experiences by anonymously identifying one of their own strengths on an index card, then one of their struggles on a second card. She prompts them using another cool video called “Perspectacles.”

For some real student stories, we like this collection of videos in which young people talk about how they felt hurt in a variety of situations.

As always, we encourage you to share your successes and challenges with us. We may post them with your permission and with photos if you have parent releases for your students. You may comment on this post, email us at, or message us on Facebook or Twitter.






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