Walking in their shoes – How progress is made in my classroom.

I have reflected all month and my new post for #Blogsync is about progress and how it is made in my classroom. It’s all about shoes….

    I am a lover of shoes, I love the way I feel in different pairs of them and how I can express elements of my personality through carefully chosen footwear. I don’t indulge too often, but I know I have passed on my love of shoes to my three beautiful daughters and I gain as much enjoyment from sharing their purchases as I do my own.
    But what has this to do about progress in my classroom? Well…..
    Progress is not always something that you can add to a mark book or quantify in letters and numbers and this is the progress that excites me the most.
    In my classroom I have a shelf of shoes, It contains gorgeous heels, flippers, an army boot thrown out from a nearby Garrison and promptly put in the boot of my car, flats, trainers….
     These are donated shoes from people who have journeyed with me in my classroom, students and teachers alike. It is extending and I ask my students to consider donating a pair of their own shoes if they feel that at any time during our lessons they have walked in someone else’s shoes.  Taken from an idea by Roman Krznaric’s empathy museum, I began to consider that progress was real progress when learning was made through someone else’s context; when real insight was created through our lessons and the students could put themselves in someone else’s shoes (occasionally this meant literally!) and then tell me what they thought on a particular topic/issue.  
    As part of the GCSE OCR Ethics syllabus, students must do exactly that; what does a Catholic believe about animal testing? How would a Protestant react to a pregnant teen wanting an abortion? What does a Christian soldier feel like in combat knowing he “shalt not kill”?  It is this type of progress I want to see in my classroom and why shoes figure quite highly in my efforts with student progression.
    Walking in someone else’s shoes takes skill, but first and foremost knowledge. This comes first and is the core part of my weekly hour with them, progress can be felt but also assessed with this foundation and the skill comes after through discussion, sharing stories, supposing, projecting and predicting what will come next. My students have facts but lack experience; they are but young, so I use mine and that of my vast friendship groups and others personal experiences to share with them what the world is about. My aim is to watch them progress to the point where judgement is reserved until the knowledge is gained, the minds widen and become open vessels. Progress is reached when students can wear the shoes and walk the path of another human being and say, “this is what it is like to be ……, this is what they believe”. Or, “I think it must be really difficult to be this person, I am lucky it’s not me”
    Walking in someone else’s shoes emits an empathy that is irresistible to other humans; we can communicate on a level that allows us to listen and truly hear what is being said, we learn from those around us and it is more then just facts, it is their world, their feelings, their hopes and dreams and it is precious and to be respected. Empathetic people are successful future leaders and communicators, but also husbands, mothers, friends. 
    Alongside this being fostered in my classroom for the sake of their GCSE results it is an aspect of humanity that is required to form strong and resilient relationships and this progress lends itself to all subjects. When I hear from my colleagues in English that Romeo has ‘Agape’ for Juliet my heart sings and I am again excited by the spread of the progress that has been made in my little room, I am encouraged that I add a value to their lives that I never link to value added, ever.
    Please don’t get me wrong; I am a teacher and I use data, formative and summative assessment for my students, I mark their work and give them feedback, I plan my lessons, I assess their abilities inline with the examiners requirements, I self assess, peer assess, write together, mark together, but, in my classroom, where it is normal to talk for an hour, to sit on the floor and look at a picture and work how what we feel and where those feelings come from, where we can pull down a pair of shoes from the shelf, put them on and try to tell the class how it feels to be us…
    Progress is made that can’t be analysed on a spreadsheet, minds are opened and opinions are changed, students characters grow in front of me as they challenge their thinking head on. And at all times respect is given, the challenge of their journeys is acknowledged, because this progress is earned the hard way. 
    This progress is built through walking, and you need great shoes for walking.
    This post is for Aprils #Blogsync – How progress is made in my classroom. http://blogsync.edutronic.net/
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5 Responses to Walking in their shoes – How progress is made in my classroom.

  1. missmcinerney says:

    That shoe shelf is a genius idea. I demand a picture in a future blog!

  2. Tina Kearney says:

    I love the point made about reserving judgment until knowledge is acquired.
    Teaching and shoes; my 2 favorite things! 😉

  3. Pingback: 4. April 2013 #blogsync: Progress EDUTRONIC | #blogsync

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