The Walk to School: Using Empathy to Understand

In my CEP 817 class, I was given the assignment to capture someone else’s view in a 2-minute video by just listening and looking through the camera.  Inspiration came from Grant Wiggins blog post,  Teacher Spends Two Days as a Student — Washington Post, October 24, 2014.  I had read this article previously and thought, “every teacher should do this.”  Well here was my chance.

I decided to capture a high school student’s walk to school.  In our local newspaper, a student wrote about changing the start time to her high school.  She argued that it was too early for her age group to get up and be ready to learn.  She suggested the elementary students could have the 7:15 a.m. start time.  Another high school student pleaded for a snow day because his walk to school would be horrendous.  He argued to think of the students that have to walk on the ice and snow.

So I put myself into the shoes of a high school student.  Here is what I imagined before I captured my video:

I am a 9th grade female student.  I live in the walk-zone of my school.  School starts at 7:15 a.m.  My parents both work and leave by 6:00 a.m. I need to get myself ready for school and leave by 6:50 a.m.  My alarm goes off at 6:15 a.m.  I shower, eat breakfast, and pack my bag.  It is February. I go outside it is 20 degrees.  I need warm clothes and boots for the walk. It is very dark.  Not many cars pass as I walk to school. It is eerily quite but peaceful. Lonely. Am I safe?  

After getting into the mindset of a high school student, I captured this short video: (edited portions to get it into a short clip)

This was not the experience I thought I would have at all.  I thought it would be peaceful and dark.  It was loud with cars the entire time.   Instead of loneliness, I saw a congested, lively, chaotic life that occurred in the morning that I was unaware of….forgot about.

The closer I got to school, I felt this sense of chaos and congestion.  Before the walk, I didn’t think of the 2000 other students also trying to get to school.  Buses, cars, and traffic all around me.  The walk actually got my blood pumping and was great to get fresh air before school.  I saw three other students walking and even a student biking to school.

I thought I would be persuading others to look at how awful this walk would be but instead I came to realize this walk had considerable benefits.  How resilient that student waking up and walking in the snow, figuring out the terrain and traffic.  How refreshing to get that fresh air and exercise in the morning before school.  What an active world happening before school begins.

To walk in someone else’s shoes can show great perspective….and maybe change your view of someone else’s world. I know it did for me.


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