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See the Individual, Not the Majority

How Seeing Individuals Can Change How You Teach

See the Individual, Not the Majority
July 15, 2019 iteachus

See the Individual

Have you ever been labeled or stuck in a group just because of the time you were born? Yep. We do it all the time. We label individuals as Millenials, Baby Boomers, Gen Y, Gen X – but do those labels really mean anything? I was talking with a friend recently and she said a guy wouldn’t go out with her because she was a Gemini. He told her that he was “just not compatible with Gemini’s”. Imagine how she felt about being lumped into a group and labeled as “incompatible”.

What about homeschool versus public school? Republican, Libertarian or Democrat. Our culture is good at slapping labels on individuals and lumping them into groups, but that is not really fair. In my personal experience, once we know someone, and their story, we have much more compassion for them. It reminds me of the brutal movie “American History X” which is about a white supremacist who befriends an African American man in prison. Through the process of getting to know an actual human being, instead of an ethnic group, Norton’s character learned that what he had been taught and led to believe about African American’s was not true. He had been taught to stereotype and to oversimplify a complex situation.

How Generational Stereotypes Hold Us Back

The Silent Generation, baby boomers, Generation X, millennials, Gen Z — we’re all in the workforce together. How are our assumptions about each other holding us back from working and communicating better? Social psychologist Leah Georges shows how we’re more similar than different and offers helpful tactics for navigating the multigenerational workplace.

Stereotyping is defined as: : something conforming to a fixed or general pattern especially : a standardized mental picture that is held in common by members of a group and that represents an oversimplified opinion, prejudiced attitude, or uncritical judgment. So why is this important? Because as we teach others, it can be easy to look at a large problem, instead of looking at the individual. You might as yourself, “How can I feed all the homeless people in Dallas.” The answer most likely is that you can’t, but you can probably feed one person. 

Teaching One Child At a Time

The point of this post is to show that we all want to be treated as individuals and not labeled as a group or put in a box that may not fit. The same goes for students. They want to be seen and heard, not for their background, gender, orientation, or ethnicity, but to be seen as humans with potential.

Educating the poor is more than just a numbers game, says Shukla Bose. She tells the story of her groundbreaking Parikrma Humanity Foundation, which brings hope to India’s slums by looking past the daunting statistics and focusing on treating each child as an individual.

Walk a Mile in Someone Else’s Shoes

“The admonition to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes means before judging someone, you must understand his experiences, challenges, thought processes, etc. The full idiom is: Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes. In effect, it is a reminder to practice empathy.”(The Grammarist)

As we go through life, using empathy can help us when dealing with difficult people. When we take the time to get to know someone’s story we can better understand who they are, where they are coming from, and how we can help. As teachers, we have the unique opportunity to speak into the lives of others and help them become the best that they can be.

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