I had a student speaker in class a few days ago, and for half of the class, my students were attentive and participated. But for the other half, they started to unravel, having side conversations, giggling amongst themselves, and passing a drawing back and forth.
Today, when we reflected on the incident, I not only reflected the behavior back to them, but I also asked them to imagine what it would be like to present in front of people who were doing that. I asked them to reflect on what that person might be experiencing.
“They might feel ignored.”
“They might feel like we aren’t interested in what they have to say.”
“They might think we are laughing at them.”
For that moment in time, they seemed chastened. Again, I didn’t have to shame them or tell them I was disappointed. In fact, I believe when we do that, a lot of times we get pushback and defensiveness. But if we just observe the behavior, and ask for some perspective taking, that can be enough to help our students awaken to their impact. That can be enough to help the put on someone else’s shoes, even if just for a moment, and cultivate empathy.