One of the reasons I love teaching middleschoolers is they are just reaching the age when they can pay attention to the world around them instead of just themselves.
A small way I try to help develop this is at the beginning of the year during my classroom management training. I purposefully plan to arrive a minute before the bell rings so my students have to line up outside my classroom in the hallway.
When I arrive on that first day, they are inevitably blocking the entire walkway in little clumps of chatting preteens. No regard whatsoever to the hordes of people trying to walk past them. They really don't even think about the rest of the world.
So I walk up and get their attention. I say, "Look around you. Do you see these 25 people trying to walk past you? Try this, everybody. This side, touch the wall. This side, touch the railing. Do you see how people can walk past now?"
The crowd parts like I am Moses holding my rod over the Red Sea.
"I need you to begin learning to open your eyes to the people behind you and next to you. I need all of us care about those people around us."
This is no small thing to me.
I see exercises like this as real life introductions to the themes we will discuss later in our class novels.
Empathy for siblings, fellow students, and other races in ENDER'S GAME by Orson Scott Card.
Awareness of historical atrocities in THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK.
Courage to truly see others that are different from us in WONDER by R.J. Palacio and THE OUTSIDERS by S.E. Hinton.
I love finding ways you take the normal advance of our year and raise my students eyes you see the world around them. We would love to hear the ways you do this with your students. Please share!