The importance of empathy

Noted expert on early learning and best-selling author Bob Sornson, Ph.D., to speak at Academy’s 2019 McMillan lecture on April 29.

This year’s Grosse Pointe Academy McMillan lecturer is a best-selling author of many books, including Stand in My Shoes: Kids Learning About Empathy, and Meeting the Challenge: Using Love and Logic to Help Children.

When national education consultant and author Bob Sornson, Ph.D., was tabbed to be the speaker for The Grosse Pointe Academy’s 2019 edition of its William Charles McMillan III Lecture Series on April 29, it wasn’t the first time he’d heard about the school.

“At a number of my training sessions in the past there have been GPA faculty and staff in attendance,” he said. “And, of course, the school’s reputation is outstanding.”

Born and raised in Michigan, Sornson was a classroom teacher and school administrator for more than 30 years. He is the founder of the Early Learning Foundation, which works with schools, agencies and parent organizations to inform parents and school personnel about the skills and habits that should be well-established in the early years of life. His teaching and writing focuses on early learning success using competency-based learning, the development of the whole child, and parent learning.

He said during his upcoming McMillan lecture at the Academy, he will be stressing the importance of developing empathy in school children and their families.

“At GPA, I will be examining the importance of self-regulation and empathy, how they develop, and how to influence their development,” said Sornson, a father of four who’s also a best-selling author of many books, including Stand in My Shoes: Kids Learning About Empathy, and Meeting the Challenge: Using Love and Logic to Help Children. “These are critical skills along the path to resilience and character, which are outcomes that ultimately improve lives, families and society.”

Sornson said his April 29 McMillan presentation centered around empathy should resonate with teachers and parents of children even at the youngest of age.

In addition to his April 29 McMillan talk, which will be open to the public and begin at 7 p.m. in the Academy’s Tracy Fieldhouse, Sornson also has agreed to conduct a special faculty and staff-only professional development workshop on campus a week earlier on April 22.

He notes that his April 29 McMillan presentation should resonate with teachers and parents of children even at the youngest of age.

“The message regarding empathy and how it develops is crucial to parents of children of all ages,” he said. “But it is especially helpful to have this information when kids are very young, so parents have the chance to build optimal social-emotional skills for life.”

Last year, the Academy’s McMillan lecture featured Dr. Devorah Heitner, Ph.D., an expert on young people’s relationship with digital media and technology. In 2017, educator, author and speaker Jessica Lahey discussed research on autonomy-supportive parenting and teaching at GPA’s McMillan lecture.

William Charles McMillan III

More about the William Charles McMillan III Lecture Series
William Charles McMillan III was a student at The Grosse Pointe Academy from 1973 until 1981 where, receiving love and encouragement, he learned to reach beyond his limitations. Although weak physically, William was intellectually gifted and his passion for life, his love and concern for all living things, and his enthusiastic use of verbal skills changed the lives of those who were closest to him and left a lasting impression on all with whom he came in contact.

Never at a loss for words, William was bursting with impressions, questions and insights which came pouring out in a dazzling, dizzying torrent. It was rare to have a brief, superficial conversation with William. A friend commented, “I sometimes felt like I needed a seat belt when William was talking to me, because he would take us into outer space, back into primeval history, and then into a universe of his own imagining. He believed that anyone could make a significant and lasting impact on the world no matter what one’s age, size or circumstance.”

The William Charles McMillan III Lecture Series focuses on elementary education and is dedicated to the proposition that every child can reach beyond his or her own limitation, that each child makes the world a better place. It is the goal of these lectures to take your mind where it has never gone before.