A wonderful on-going project in Toronto involves encouraging immigrant women to share their stories via a pair of shoes, reminiscent of “if these walls could talk…” only with the shoes actually becoming the focal point for the story telling. What a lovely reminder for what really is the concept of empathy– the ability to not only give someone the opportunity to share stories, but for others to take a moment and attempt to understand the stories, and then, to grasp at the significance of the stories being told. Like many a person, I too have a “junk drawer”, one of those places that collects what a person is not yet ready to throw out. Objects in that drawer hold little significance for anyone else, but like the shoes on display, (see: http://www.batashoemuseum.ca/snapshot_exhibits/theshoeproject/index.shtml to read each of the short stories gathered over the three years of the project), may remind me of events, people, and life’s changes. With the school year coming to a close, it seems a lovely idea to have students write about something that they might have found when cleaning out desks, lockers, or even helping in the lunch room or gym. Over the years I have used a beautiful book by Sherri Fitch – If You Could Wear My Sneakers – main poem found here: http://www.edu.pe.ca/vrcs/resources/poetry/text/poems/what%27s%20fair/ifyoucould.html , to discuss children’s rights and matched this set of rhyming tales to other courses, political science and social science, not only the writing lesson of a language arts class, and not only with younger students. Sometimes a little bit of nonsense rhyme allows the older student to relax about what is really a very complex topic. For how difficult it truly can be to move beyond labels, stereotypes, cliques (think school- really), professional titles (think work and socializing, please), and other inscribed role playing that individuals are expected to comply with. To shake it up a bit, and if the students don’t object, objects could be placed in a giant container and then redistributed- two stories per object, one by the original owner and one made-up tale by whomever pulled it out of the “hat”. With one overriding rule prior to the sharing of the stories- no criticisms of the tales. Respect being tantamount to encouraging empathy, beginning as young as possible sounds like a plan.
to read the Toronto Star write up go here:http://www.thestar.com/news/immigration/2014/06/03/the_shoe_project_lets_listeners_walk_a_mile_in_an_immigrants_shoes.html