Instructional Designer

Changing Perspectives

Rose buds photographed from far away with photo camera magnifier filter that enlarged flowers and changed perspective

If there’s one thing we are all guilty of, it’s looking at a situation from a single perspective: our own.

Let me tell you a story that has stuck with me for many, many years. Many years ago, when my firstborn was a toddler, he really wanted to help me around the house. My parents were visiting us, and my mom and I were cleaning up after dinner one night, when my then 2 year old asked to help. I handed him a kitchen cloth and told him that he could wipe down one side of the kitchen table, while I do the other. I showed him how I do it, he watched me for a moment, and then went to work.

Can you guess what he did? He began taking wide swipes with the cloth, throwing everything onto the floor! I remember being SO frustrated. I gritted my teeth, and said a big thank you to my kid and then sent him off to play in another room. I remember my mom looking at me, as I grumbled about getting the broom and dustpan. She never even asked me what was wrong, she simply said ” You know… from HIS perspective, he sees you throwing everything off the table onto the floor. He doesn’t see your hand under the table catching the crumbs”. Then she got up and went to play with her grandchild.

I was speechless for a moment as her words sunk in, and my frustration evaporated. She was right. I THOUGHT I had taught him how to wipe down the table. But, I was wrong…

I often think about how lucky I am that I was taught that lesson so long ago. That simple moment changed both my parenting and my teaching for the better.

You see, it’s common in education to hear that we need to get to know our students. To learn about what they enjoy doing, what their home life is like, what they dislike. What are their learning strengths, weaknesses, and how can you motivate them to learn? With adult learners, we are are encouraged to take into account their unique life experiences, to meet them where they are at, and to make the learning relevant to their jobs or lives.

However, sometimes, even after you’ve given the surveys, talked to the students, gathered all the data, performed learner analysis, we may still be missing something. What is it? Perspective……..

Can we see our teaching through their eyes? Can we see what they see? Their unique life experiences, as young as 5 or as old as 95, make their view different from our own. If you are struggling to connect with your students, if they just aren’t ‘getting’ it, if you feel frustrated at your inability to get through, perhaps a perspective change is needed.

How do you do this? In my story above, an outside perspective was the key. However, once I KNEW what I was looking for, once my eyes were open to this knowledge, I began to look for it in all my interactions. While it’s impossible to know the history of each person with whom you share an experience, being aware that their perspective is going to differ from your own, is the key to breaking down the moment, asking the right questions, and then finding where the breakdown in communication was that led to inaccurate learning.

Have you had any ‘Ah Ha’ type moments like this? A moment so small but so very impactful to your own learning? I’d love to hear about it!