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Gray Switalski

Name: Gray Switalski

Introduction: I’m an educator with experience working with students from elementary school through college.  I’ve taught in both the humanities and the sciences.  Currently, I teach high school environmental science, marine biology, and zoology.  My educational philosophy includes promoting project-based learning, experiential learning, and progressive education.  My other professional background is in animal husbandry.  As an environmental educator, I am extremely interested in how we can utilize field work, nature study, and animal experiences to teach empathy, autonomy, and critical thinking skills.    

What does an ideal IETA look like to you?  

  • - a group that provides support, outreach, training, professional development, etc to various different organizations.
  • - a body that creates and upholds professional standards for empathy training and development.
  • - work to promote empathy as a valued practice in classrooms, workplaces, etc.
  • - create realistic goals and benchmarks for trainees and have understanding of schedules and difficulties (i.e. extend our empathy to people who are trying very hard to incorporate these ideas into an already full and demanding schedule - try to figure out a way to make this as painless as possible.  Make this something to celebrate and something that feels achievable - not something that feels like “just another professional development my boss is making me do” and feels like a daunting amount of extra work on top of a full plate.
  • - work to achieve an ease of access to materials/empathy professionals - offer online training, in person professional development, conferences, team building, etc.  Not a “one size fits all” deal.
  • - supports and believes the idea that empathic relationships should go both ways - should not just be a top down endeavor.  
  • - publicize empathy’s successes - highlight how empathy is a utilizable 21st century skill.  
  • - experiment with different approaches on how to tap into and teach empathy.  This could range from things like mindfulness to initiative and confidence training to wilderness experiences.  

Edwin interviews Gray

  1. Are you interested in training?

  • Worked at different areas, school focused on autonomy, empathy, the kind of school and what they were creating was a beautiful thing.  
  • A fan of commerce but not as important as the people they are producing, from learning from books, exploring the world, hands on learning, literature, encouraging kids.  
  • We don’t have computers to be empathetic, this is what we need to create in our children, and hopefully move the whole society.
  1. You're a teacher that sees developing an empathic school system and then receiving a salary as a teacher?

  • I would like to move away from teaching and find a way to provide training to schools, to teachers as part of professional development so that it becomes a mainstream way to teach
  1. How do you envision that?

  • Thinking big picture here, being huge!  
  • Working with likeminded people who are able to offer training and go into schools as trainers in empathic school culture, work with specific school districts or different groups.  
  • Get into AIMS, help those schools to move to best practice.
  1. Become an organisation like IETA and market to other districts, schools and be paid through the associations who can handle the marketing.  Be one of the trainers, sounds like it would be fulfilling.

  • Definitely, the kids embrace it and see the change.
  • Loved the types of people this school was “creating”
  • Wants to see a shift from just book learning to more experiential
  • Empathy as a marketable skill
  • Would like to move away from the teaching and move towards the empathic part
  • Find a way to provide some sort of training to schools..empathic teaching..empathic culture as a part of teacher training
  • Ideally offered through an organization
  • Private schools (in Baltimore area) belong to AIMS...this organization would work with AIMS to get into their member schools.