When faced with bullying, teachers, counselors and administrators often find it much easier to sympathize with bullied students than with students who bully. When interacting with youth who bully, keep in mind one of the core assertions of the article: “Bullying is a behavior, not an identity.” All students—those who are bullied as well as those who bully—need support and guidance. This lesson focuses on building student empathy and will help all students identify ways to be more understanding toward others.
Start with these essential questions:
- What does it mean to put yourself in someone’s shoes?
- What kinds of behaviors show that you understand someone’s feelings?
Ask students to think about the essential questions and share initial thoughts with a partner or with the class. As students share, record and display the words they use to describe their feelings.
Read How Would You Feel? or a similar short scenario with your class. For each story, ask students to think about how they might feel if the situation happened to them; have them record their thoughts. Refer to the displayed words to help students.
Discuss each story with your class. Shift the point of view in each story to help students understand what it might be like to be in someone else’s shoes.
The following questions could be used to discuss How Would You Feel?:
- Finn thinks Jacob is bragging, but if he stopped to think about how he might feel in Jacob’s situation, what might he realize about how Jacob is feeling?
- Durrell thinks that Mike is being mean to him, but if Durrell put himself in Mike’s place, what might he realize?
- Does Tina show Suri any understanding? What might have been a better way to talk to Suri?
- Valerie gets annoyed with Meegan because she is acting silly. If Valerie had thought about how Meegan might be feeling about her trip, she might have realized what was causing Meegan’s “weird” behavior. Why do you think Meegan was acting that way?
As a closing activity, reiterate that when we try to understand other people’s feelings, we’re putting ourselves in that person’s shoes. When we really listen to others, we better understand them.
Individually or in pairs, have students pick their favorite of the four stories and rewrite it so it illustrates being understanding of someone else’s feelings.