Reminding students of the old adage, ‘Walking a mile in someone else’s shoes,’ seems more important than ever these days. With so many different voices and perspectives being presented on social media, in the news, and in family discussions, people express their points of view loud and clear. Today’s students have the opportunity 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 points of view. 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 agree or disagree. Challenging students to not just hear the arguments but discover why the arguments are there in the first place is a key part of learning to value multiple points of view. It encourages empathy in dealing with those who oppose them.
Valuing multiple perspectives doesn’t mean a student has to begin to believe in something they disagree with, but it allows for a constructive dialogue. 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. As students learn to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, they are poised to pass this value to everyone they meet on their life’s journey.