Back to School: How Would You Feel If?

Adult Professional Development: Back to SchoolAll of the lessons in our Don’t Laugh at Me curriculum include “Grade Level Variations” for grades K-12, and, in some cases, even adult professional development.  If you click “Grade Level Versions,” for any lesson, you’ll find the category “adults.”

Today, we’d like to highlight the suggested version for adults in our “How Would You Feel If” lesson (Theme I, Lesson 3). It’s one of our favorites to use in almost any adult professional development session, such as staff meeting, PTA function, conference, or professional development day, because it is so revealing and, yet, simple.

Adult Professional Development: It’s All About Perspective

“Imagine that you’re 10 years old and every day when you come home from school no one is there, but there is a note that says, ‘I love you’, and your favorite dessert. How would you feel?”

In our workshops with adults, we ask them to talk in pairs about how they would feel as a 10 year old in that situation. When we process those conversations, we almost invariably find that the group is split between positive and negative feelings, some feeling happy that they are loved and independent and others feeling sad and lonely even though there’s a note and a dessert. Often, participants are shocked by others’ perspectives, assuming that everyone will be thrilled/upset as they were.

What does that tell us? Workshop participants say that, at first, they think that everyone will feel the way they felt, but then they realize that we can’t predict feelings so easily and that assuming can lead to real judgement. We ask several other questions in sequence and get the same reactions over time. Perhaps our most telling response in a workshop was when a participant observed that, “We all have the same feelings, we just have them at different times.”

Now imagine applying that revelation to our experiences with our colleagues, our students, and their families. Rather than expecting that their feelings in any given situation would be the same as ours, we not only would learn to check in with them to really know how they feel, but also that their feelings are absolutely as valid as ours even when they are quite different. Powerful for us and powerful for our students to learn.

We like to collect more examples of situations that result in a range of feelings. In conversation, the question, “how do you feel about that?” and engaging in active listening can truly result in a resolution of issues rather than conflict or argument. If you have a good one, send it our way so that we can share!

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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