All About Perspective

As I watched the news recently, I pondered my earlier question in a previous post:  How can two people see, hear or experience the same event or conversation and walk away with a completely different perspective.

Denis Waitley said, “You must look within for value, but must look beyond for perspective.”  To me this is powerful because it reminds us that we must look beyond ourselves and how we think to find perspective beyond our own.  Looking within ourselves shapes how we value the event or situation we are experiencing or watching.

Our views are shaped by our experiences, preferences, values and relationships.  We do not realize how these factors affect our view but they do because they often veil the outcome in some way.

It is important that we, as adults, step back and think through events to truly see where the truth or facts lie.  It is tough because we know how we feel and what we BELIEVE should have happened and therefore the events are often exaggerated when they do not meet our value system or we down play if they do.

Whether it is a political, moral or other passionate event, situation or idea—we are so invested in our own value—we struggle to step back to see ways others might be approaching or thinking of the situation.

As educators, we must remember, when we interact with others we are teaching it to our students.  Discussing ideas in a civil manner helps us to become a more tolerant and open minded person. This does not mean you have to believe as someone else does.  You must be able to look past your own beliefs to see  others may have a different perspective.

Aristotle shared this idea, “It is a mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”  Is it not this type of thinking we want our students to possess?  A person who can listen, consider and think about an idea but look within themselves to determine the value they want to equate with the idea.  This is a sign of not only an educated mind but an open one that can think beyond their own perspective.

As a history teacher, I loved having my students’ role play different people in history to see a situation from their eyes. One of my favorite activities, when studying the American Revolution, was to assign them a person in history. For some, it was someone famous like Patrick Henry or Thomas Jefferson. For other students, it may be a farmer, slave, merchant, ship captain, etc.  They would be asked to think from that person’s perspective to decide whether they would have sided with the Patriots or stayed loyal to the King.  Of course, everyone at first thought they would be a Patriot.  After stepping back and thinking about a wealthy merchant, with family in England, dependent on the goods from England to sell—would you really side with the Patriots?  Powerful to think through the eyes of another–such as the soldiers during the Boston Massacre–were they guilty, victims or just in the wrong place at the wrong time?  Students’ thinking as someone else helps them develop the understanding that there is more than one side to every story.

Take time this school year to emphasize the need to look at an event or idea from more than one perspective. How?

  • Role Play social situations or historical events
  • Diary entries from various perspectives of an event. Ex. Write a diary entry from a first class passenger on the Titanic. How would that diary entry be different if you were a third class passenger? Another example, write a diary entry as Rosa Parks.  How would the bus driver’s perspective of the event be similar or different?  What feelings might be different?
  • Write poetry from an alternate speaker. For example, write a poem about autumn from a squirrel’s point of view.  How would a maple tree’s perspective be different?
  • Using a story you are reading, have students define the problem and how it was solved. Discuss how would a different character solve it? Why? Was everyone happy with the solution? Did everyone think the problem was negative?

The world we live in is full of ideas, history, values, experiences and opinions—my hope is that we expose our students to many ideas and MOST OF ALL the ability to step back and think about why someone else might see or think something different. Push students through activities and questioning to think differently—not to change their opinions but to acknowledge that others do think differently.  It is important for us to emphasize that listening and considering someone’s idea does not mean you agree with it BUT you understand that someone else feels or sees something different.

What Do You See? Perspective!!

Have you ever wondered how two people can see, hear or experience the same event or conversation and walk away with a completely different perspective?

This week I have reflected on this thought:

If an event happens—two people are involved and  have two different versions of what happened—where does the truth lie within?  How do we find it?  How do we see it?  Most of all—how do we accept and understand that it is blended between the two perspectives?

Our views are shaped by our experiences, preferences, values and  relationships.  We do not realize how these factors affect our view but they do because they often veil the outcome in some way.

It is important that we as adults step back and think through events to truly see where the truth or facts lie.  It is tough because we know how we feel and what we BELIEVE should have happened and therefore the events are often exaggerated when they do not meet our value system or down played if they do.

My example, yelling.  I am not a person who speaks loudly (most of the time) and it causes me anxiety when I am immersed in a situation with noise and what I consider loud voices.  When I am in a situation, it is very important for me to remember that a loud voice does not necessarily mean anger or frustration and that should not provide a negative connotation to the event.

Since, this is difficult because we have strong belief systems, we must really think about activities that can help our students  develop the understanding that each person sees situations differently.  We must remember that as adults when we interact with others we are teaching it to our students.

 

Here are 3 simple ideas to begin discussions of perspective.

 

  1. Perspective from a Window

Have students look out a window for 2 minutes.  Give them time to write one sentence.  Share sentences.

Discuss:

  • What was focused on?
  • What was important to write about?
  • Were statements general or specific about one thing? Why?
  1. Folding Paper Activity

Have students follow these directions:

  • Fold the paper in half
  • Fold the paper in half again.
  • Tear off the bottom right hand corner.
  • Turn the paper upside down.
  • Tear off the bottom right corner.

Discuss:

  • How did you feel when you showed your paper?
  • Did you feel you did yours correctly? Someone else was wrong?
  • Why were there so many different versions?
  • Was there one answer or correct way?

*Tell students to imagine that the paper is their perspective or the way they see things.  What can we learn about perspective from this activity? How can we learn from others about seeing things differently?

  1. Perspecs: http://www.perspecsnews.com/

This is a great website with news articles that are presented in two perspectives and one factual article.  Not all the articles are appropriate so you must preview what you are assigning but it is definitely worth checking out.

The world we live in is full of ideas, values, experiences and opinions—my hope is that we expose our students to many ideas and MOST of all the ability to step back and think about why someone else might see or think something different.  It is important for us to emphasize that listening and considering someone’s idea does not mean you agree with it but you understand that someone else feels or sees something different.

 

Resources used to create this Blog:

Perspecs

http://www.perspecsnews.com/

Lesson Ideas from NC Learn

Perspective

History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.

—-Maya Angelou

 

In our world of technological advances our abilities to communicate and relate are suffering. With the election season in full swing, the intolerance of others’ ideas is filling the air. Learning to see all sides of an issue and knowing you can agree to disagree respectfully is crucial for peaceful understanding.

 

The human brain is a complex organ thriving on stimulation through creativity and emotion.  These two factors are crucial for processing and patterning memory. When emotion is evoked the brain is able to create connections and deep meaning is fostered. Creative thinking and emotion are the two elements that will help foster understanding of events from multiple perspectives.

 

Memorizing and rote learning is part of the educational process with tasks such as spelling words and multiplication tables but when delving into topics that help to mold and change a person’s perspective or value system creating connections is crucial. History is the subject which helps students experience events sparked by greatness as well as mistakes. The study of history allows students to experience various perspectives, opinions and ideas which help students see through eyes of another person and allow true understanding. In a world of technology and very little interaction, this personal connection is an important piece of learning.  Professor and education theorist E.D. Hirsch, Jr. states, “There is a great deal of evidence, indeed a consensus in cognitive psychology, that people who are able to think independently about unfamiliar problems and who are broad-gauged problem solvers, critical thinkers and life long learners are without exception, well informed people.”  These types of learners are the ones we want to foster to help ensure a better future for our country and world.

 

When we move forward in life, looking back on lessons we have learned helps us decide which road to take in different situations. Learning about history and multiple perspectives allows students to see where we have come as a country, mistakes that have been made and provide insight into why things are the way they are.  Without looking at mistakes or other perspectives we stay rooted in one way thinking that allows a person to see only black and white and continue “one way thinking.”

 

Reading facts about a topic is only a small fraction of what is needed to gain understanding of some complex topics.  Pairing literature with primary documents and poetry helps us to look at multiple opinions and ideas. Think of the issue of slavery as an example. How could a person understand what the time period was like by simply reading text and answering questions?  However, browsing primary documents, photographs, advertisements depicting the selling of slaves, wanted posters for runaway slaves; narratives from slaves, ship captains, slave owners, etc. help students unravel the threads of the story.  Listening to interviews and testimonials from slaves and their ancestors regarding treatment, daily life and conditions helps our students to wrap ideas and concepts together to make connections from one person to another.

 

A new tool that can help students gain insight into multiple perspectives is an APP called Perspecs News App.  This App allows you to search for a news article and it will be given to you in three articles. One article provides background on the topic and is presented in a neutral tone.  The other two articles are the pro and con perspectives of the topic.  You must be careful when choosing the topics because some topics are inappropriate for our elementary students but this is a powerful tool to show more than one side to a story.

 

Poetry is another powerful tool to help students see more than one side to an issue and be affected by the emotion of the issue.  Having two short poems on a topic can help students learn information and see how a person felt during the time.

 

When looking up the word open minded, words such as comprehensive, divergent thinker, critical thinking, flexible, and perspicacious filled the pages.  Perspicacious means being insightful and having a clear understanding of things. Isn’t this a characteristic we want developed in our students and fellow citizens?

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