Walking in Someone Else’s Shoes
Thinking of others
by Laurence Chilcott (revised, originally published in 2014)
Suitable for Whole School (Pri)
To consider the importance of understanding other people’s feelings and their actions.
Preparation and materials
- Gather a selection of footwear to show and describe to the children, and place it in a bag. See the ‘Assembly’, Step 1, for some examples as to how they could be described, but choose ones that contrast as much as possible with each other, such as a walking boot and a flip-flop, a trainer and a ‘best’ shoe, a gardening clog and a wellington boot, a ballet shoe and a football boot and so on.
- When the children have settled, start the assembly by taking a shoe out of the bag.
Ask the children to suggest when the shoe would be used and what makes it suitable for that occasion.
For example, we use walking boots when we go on a long walk over rough ground. They’re comfortable and strong. The deep tread on the bottom ensures that we have good grip when the ground is slippery or rough. The high back supports our ankle so that we’re less likely to twist it when walking over rocky, uneven surfaces. They’re also waterproof, so our feet won’t get wet if we have to cross wet or boggy ground.
In contrast, we use flip-flops in the summer when it’s hot, especially if we’re on the beach or by a swimming pool. They protect our feet from hot sand or concrete and we can shake them off easily if we want to go for a swim because there are no buckles or laces. They’re also light and easy to pack in our suitcase.
Continue in the same way with other examples of footwear, choosing ones that contrast as much as possible with the one before. In each case, describe the context in which each shoe is worn and what makes it suitable for that purpose.
- Explain that children need to have shoes that fit well and allow some room for growth. Most will know how uncomfortable shoes can get if they become too small and how cramped our toes feel when that happens.
- There are many well-known sayings that refer to footwear. As you mention each of the following sayings, ask the children what they think each one means before giving a brief explanation.
– He got too big for his boots.
– The shoe is on the other foot now.
– She’s as tough as old boots.
– Those are hard shoes to fill.
– I wouldn’t want to be in her shoes.
- Another old saying goes, ‘Don’t judge a person until you have walked a mile in their shoes.’
Ask the children what they think this saying might mean.
Listen to a range of responses.
Explain that it’s not really a good idea to wear someone else’s shoes: the saying is not meant to be taken literally! Instead, it means that we don’t truly understand someone until we know what life is like for them, and can see things from their point of view.
- Explain that we can sometimes be critical of other people’s actions, but there may be reasons for them acting as they do.
– The child who won’t join in our game may be shy. We might falsely think that they don’t like us.
– The child who won’t talk to us may be afraid that we will laugh at them because that’s what others have done. We may think that they don’t want to talk to us.
– The child who gets upset when we play with someone else may not have many friends. We may think that they are too clingy.
– A friend who never comes to our birthday parties may be embarrassed that they can’t afford to buy a present. We might think that they are simply too mean to buy one.
- Explain that these are just a few examples. There are many other reasons why people act the way they do. The key thing is that we aren’t too hasty in judging them. We need to try to understand how they are feeling.
We won’t go far wrong if we remember the golden rule: to treat others as we would like to be treated.
Time for reflection
Encourage the children to think about a time when they have acted in a particular way and been misunderstood by others.
A verse in the Bible says, ‘In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.’ (Matthew 7.12)
Ask the children what they think this means.
Listen to a range of responses.
Help us to try to understand how others feel:
How they may feel sad when we feel happy,
How they may feel left out when we have plenty of friends.
Help us always to try to treat others as we would like them to treat us.
‘One more step’, available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7PXV3dwaeNU (2.51 minutes long)