Alison Fornés, MEd. Founder of expanded knowing.com and the Empathic Seminar

By the Spring of 2012, when I left my career as a classroom teacher, I had been teaching high school in NYC for a dozen in years.

During my twelve years in the classroom, I maintained one intention: to empower students with the tools to explore the questions that matter to them.

I was happy to be in a community of educators who valued student-centered practices, who encouraged my creativity and supported my professional development. I developed several interdisciplinary projects with colleagues, and my classroom environment was one of peer-led dialogue and inquiry. In my desire to expand beyond conventional ways of knowing, I taught mindfulness practices, and I introduced systems thinking.

In many ways, I created as ideal an educational environment as I could. But the fact remained that I could never get the level of engagement that I wanted.

In what would be my final few months of teaching, I was in a school where poverty and instability were the norm. In that environment, the students had needs and priorities outside the classroom. I found I simply couldn’t meet and engage them, and I questioned whether I was able to give them anything of lasting value.

I left that experience in the middle of the school year, and by March of 2012, I began a four year immersion of training and practice in Family and Systemic Constellations. The work was a revelation to me, for it answered my intention in a new and radical way:

I discovered that the “tool to explore the questions that matter” was not outside of me. It did not require money, advanced degrees, or specialized training. The tool was my ability to bring my capacity for empathy to bear on questions that we conventionally reserved for analysis. In so doing, relationships that had been hidden were suddenly made visible.

When I started to introduce this practice to my friends, and then in professional settings, their reaction was the same as mine. To quote a recent participant in a teacher professional development workshop, “This is revolutionary!”

It is revolutionary. Our empathic intelligence expands our capacity to know the world, and allows us to see our problems and challenges in a remarkable new light. It is enlightening. It is stimulating. To fully engage empathy is to be in a state of FLOW.

In many ways, my work now is a direct offering in honor of the young people at the last school where I taught – and to all who are seeking to find meaning and purpose in their lives.

My mission now: to show everyone I can how to turn on their empathic intelligence.

You can reach Alison: alison@expandedknowing.com