Foto from Flickr, by PanshiPanshi
As a World Language teacher, I hear and use the word “perspective” quite often. But how often do we really go out of our way to gain a different perspective just to be able to understand someone better? Do you ever feel like our society is really lacking in the ability or desire to gain another perspective?
I have a friend who is very wise. She also happens to be a good 30 years older than I am. My friend used to work as a librarian in an elementary school in rural Texas. I imagine this would have been around 40 years ago. My friend has wonderful stories about when she used to get on the school bus and just ride. She would pack a little snack, because she never knew how long it would take to “make the rounds”. Can you picture all of the things that she saw on these little journeys?
My friend, upon seeing the poor circumstances and living conditions of these precious little angels with whom she spent so many hours, days, weeks, months…, gained a perspective that many teachers never have.
Can you imagine what could happen in a community if the business leaders, politicians, and church leaders rode a school bus at the wee hours of the morning or in the darkness of the late winter afternoon out to the most desperate locations of their school districts? I think perhaps things might begin to change.
Very recently, and very suddenly, I became wheelchair-bound. Riding in a wheel chair (or, most embarrassingly, in a motorized “buggy”) through department stores and grocery stores has given me my own new perspective on life. I’m now facing the reality of going back to school in January to a classroom that is in noway accessible by wheelchair. How will I get out the back door to my trailer? How will I get the chair up into the trailer? How will I get back out to get to lunch, then back to the room, then in my car at the end of the day? These are so many questions that several of my students ask themselves every day when they wake up. And so many of us just expect them to “deal with it” or “figure it out”.
My recent experience has encouraged me to try more new things to help me see through the eyes of my students. Maybe the school bus will be next for me. Or maybe I’ll make a home visit. Either way, I’m liking the prospects.
What do you do, have you done, or would you be willing to do to gain a new perspective on your students’ lives?