Thursday, November 20, 2014

Walking in Their Shoes

shoesIn Benefit of the doubt from Blue Skunk Blog, Doug Johnson states,

“Seems we do this as a species a lot, especially with students. Presume guilt instead of innocence. Forget Hanlon's Razor (Never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity.) when somebody screws up.

Lighten up. Presume innocence, stupidity, and often a rational explanation. You'll be happier with the human race - and yourself.”

Too many times I am quick to judge people. If I’m annoyed or agitated, I always think the worst of people. I need to think about what it is like if I walked in their shoes.

When a salesperson is mean to me and I complain to my husband, he is always quick to say, “Maybe that person is just having a rough day.” He is much more generous and tolerant of people’s behavior than I am and I wish I was more like him.

I need to remember to do that more in the classroom. When a student doesn’t study or does poorly on a test, I need to be calm and privately question the student to find out what is the reason for this behavior.

Many of my students face obstacles at home that I never had to when I was growing up. I need to understand that they may face challenges like this and be more sensitive. I’m not saying that I should excuse bad manners or rudeness, but if the student shows some behavior that is out of character, I need to look closer at the source.

Sometimes a reprimand from me ends up with a quick apology from a student and we move on. If the student wants to argue or gets upset easily, I need to back off (not back down), calm down, and meet with the student privately. This way the student doesn’t have to put up a show and look tough. I might not be able to solve the student’s problem but it might help to just have someone listen to the problems. Some students feel like no one listens to them. I know this takes time but sometimes it is worth it to put the time in at the beginning than to deal with behavior that explodes later and the consequences are worse.

I have even discussed this with my students. I used to have two small stuffed animals on my desk. If my pretty pink and rainbow dragon was on the desk, I was in a good mood. If I ever put the green angry bull on my desk, it means I’m not having a good day and I need space. The students took this very seriously. One day, I had a student having a bad day and he came in and asked if he could borrow my bull to put on my desk. I told him absolutely! It was a great way for students to self-monitor their own behavior and to help others be more sensitive to their classmates.

So, now I try to bite my tongue before reacting to a student’s behavior and try to put myself in his or her shoes. It helps me from regretting my actions later. Sometimes it calls for strong action and sometimes it calls for a much gentler handling.

How do you feel about this? Please share.

Image: 'Blue power!'
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