Posted by Maya Atchan on July 15th, 2019
Reminding students the old adage of walking a mile in someone else’s shoes seems more important than ever these days. With so many different voices and perspectives being presented across the spectrum on social media, in the news, and in discussions at family holiday dinner tables, people and their point of views on a subject are very loud and clear. Students have the opportunity to explore ways to listen to these often opposing viewpoints and use their skills in comprehension, exploration, and critical thinking to help bridge the gap between the different sides.
Encouraging class discussions on hot button issues is a way to monitor students as they learn to decipher their own perspective and compare that to others. The classroom is a safe space and can be utilized as such when having students present their viewpoints. It can be their portal to the research and discussions regarding opposing point of views. It doesn’t have to be one student versus another in a debate of their perspectives, rather a way to take all perspectives on a topic, and learn to understand why someone would have to take. Does it have to do with how they grew up, where they were raised, etc. Challenging students to dig deep on the topics and not just hear the arguments, but discover why the arguments are there in the first place is a key part of having students learn to value multiple points of views and encourage more empathy in how they deal with those who oppose them.
Valuing multiple perspectives doesn’t mean a student has to begin to believe in something they disagree with, but rather it allows for a dialogue between them and the opposition. A student can learn the value of empathy and how to have rational, caring conversations, which will serve as a model to those they may encounter on opposing sides along the way. If students learn to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, they are poised to pass on this value to everyone they meet on their life’s journey.