Posted in Curriculum, Education, Humanities, Perspective, Teaching

Helping Students Broaden their Perspective

Growing up in a small town, I didn’t realize how big and diverse the world truly is.  I remember how shocked I was the first time I ventured into New York City as a teenager: Seeing homeless people on the streets begging for money, trash littering the sidewalks, and people everywhere.  I was overwhelmed.  As I’ve matured, I have definitely added diverse life experiences to my repertoire that have allowed my perspective to grow and broaden.  It’s these unique experiences that have made me realize how important knowledge truly is.  The way one looks at the world is vital to how he or she interacts with the world and others in it.  Global citizens are made through education.  Knowledge is power.  The more one knows, the more he or she can positively impact the world and be the change they wish to see in the world, as Ghandi instructed many years ago.

One of the goals I have for my students in Humanities class is that they will broaden their perspective and change the way they see the world by the end of the academic year.  I want them to be aware of the biases they all have due to their prior knowledge and be open to new ideas and knowledge as a way to shed light on the unknown or their version of a truth.  While this is challenging at times, my co-teacher and I try to encourage the students to approach each lesson, activity, and unit with an open and growth mindset.

Today in class, we introduced our next country of study within the African continent, Egypt.  We discussed Egypt’s geography and location in Europe so that the students have a foundation of knowledge upon which to build an understanding of the country.  The students then wrote and drew pictures depicting everything they know or think they know about Egypt.  This springboard activity led into a whole class discussion regarding how what they know about Egypt stems from a very narrow perspective on the country.  I asked the boys, “How did you learn what you know about Egypt?”  We then discussed how this skewed prior knowledge leads to ignorance regarding all aspects of the country.   The boys had drawn pictures of ancient Egypt, pyramids, pharaohs, and the Egypt of old.  None of the students seemed to realize how rich and diverse the country currently is or the turmoil it has undergone in recent years.  They knew what teachers had taught them and what textbooks had explained to them.  They knew what the world wanted them to know about Egypt.  What about everything else?  We spent time viewing various pictures of modern Egypt with the students.  The boys then shared what they noticed in each image.  They seemed surprised that the images of pyramids depicted very old and eroded objects.  They didn’t realize how modern parts of Egypt are.  They seemed shocked by what they were learning.  At the close of the lesson, we had the students share how their perspective regarding how Egypt had changed.  Almost every student expressed how much they learned about Egypt from today’s lesson.  They were so surprised by how different Egypt is compared to what they thought they knew about the country.

Mission accomplished.  We were able to help the students see more of the world for how it truly is today.  We have equipped our students with power that they will hopefully use to make the world a better place for all citizens.  It was so interesting and fun watching the students change their view of Egypt in class today.  Helping students think critically about the world around them is one easy way we can help students grow, develop, and more effectively engage with the world in a transformative manner.

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Author:

I teach sixth grade at Cardigan Mountain School in Canaan, NH. I'm currently ensconced in my fourteenth year at this small, independent boys' school. I love engaging students in relevant and hands-on learning. I was nominated for the NH Teacher of the Year Award in 2016 by a parent. While I love education and guiding students, my first passion is my family. I have a wonderful son, Jeffrey, and a beautiful and intelligent wife, Kim. I couldn't be happier. Every day is the best day of my life.

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