Walking in Another’s Shoes – Teaching Perspective

Don't Laugh at Me: Empathy and The Torn HeartNearly a year ago, this video popped up in my Facebook feed and I was completely intrigued.   It shows an experiment in which six photographers are each told a different story about their subject, then asked to “show” the man through their photographs. They come together later to see each other’s work and only then discover that they were told different stories which, at least in part, resulted in very different photographs.

It doesn’t spoil the ending for me to share that the video ends with the statement, “A photograph is shaped more by the person behind the camera, than by what is in front of it.” What a statement! All the implications for educators just come pouring into my mind – how does our understanding of a student’s background change our beliefs about who they are, what they can do, how we act with them? If we were told a different story about them, how would our beliefs and actions change?

Teaching Perspective

If that happens with adults, if our preconceived notions bias our viewpoint, then how can we teach our students the skill of perspective? Practice, practice, practice, and, yes, that applies to us too. Perspective is a really tough skill and one which develops over time. That’s why we love the story of the Maligned Wolf in our Walk in Another’s Shoes lesson. It’s a version of Little Red Riding Hood told from the Wolf’s perspective and, needless to say, is rather different from the traditional version.   It’s fun, yet let’s the teacher/counselor ask the questions about why his story is so different from Red Riding Hood’s. Why does the story look so very different from his shoes compared to hers?

This lesson may be the most important one you teach all year. It provides the foundation for developing empathy and has implications for literature, history, science, and even math (check out the curricular connections tab of the lesson for lots of good ideas across content areas and grade levels). Learning about perspective helps students learn how to interpret and understand various sources of information and the experiences of others. It helps them understand and predict the impact of their own actions on others and begin to grasp why two people may have completely different views about the exact same experience or situation.

Please share your ideas and stories about how you and your students walk in another’s shoes and practice perspective! We’ll post them to our Facebook page. Please assure that there is parental permission for photos or videos and send them to us at info@operationrespect.org.


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