Students in class looking at each other

Through the Looking Glass

Students demonstrate courage by voluntarily sharing their responses to this prompt: “Most people see me as ____, but I really am _____. Then, all students participate by reading each other’s anonymous answers aloud and listening to each other’s experiences with empathy and compassion.

Level: High School
Duration: Multiple Sessions
My Notes: Add/Edit Notes

Planning For It

When You Might Use This Practice

  • To encourage students to practice being vulnerable with one another
  • To cultivate greater self-awareness
  • Any time of the year


Time Required

  • ≤ 15 minutes (2-3x/week)



  • Equipment to watch
  • Paper
  • Pencil/pen
  • Video


Learning Objectives

Students will:
  • Identify differences between how others see them and how they see themselves
  • Practice courage by sharing aspects of their identities.
  • Listen to the experiences of their classmates
  • Respond to each other’s experiences with empathy and compassion


Additional Supports


Character Strengths

  • Empathy
  • Courage
  • Compassion


SEL Competencies

  • Self-Awareness
  • Social Awareness
  • Relationship skills


Mindfulness Components

  • Focused Attention
  • Open Awareness
  • Non-Judgment

How To Do It

Reflection Before the Practice

Complete the prompt, “Most people see me as ___, but really I am ___.” Reflect on how this makes you feel. Consider talking to a friend about your response to this prompt and taking the time to listen to how your friend feels about their own sense of self in comparison with others’ perceptions.


  • Load the 8-minute video before students come into the class and check that the sound is working.
  • Before you begin the video, make sure all students have a piece of paper and something to write with. Let students know that their responses will be anonymous and will be read aloud to the class.
  • During the video, you will be asked to call on any students who would like to volunteer to share their response to the prompt: “Most people see me as ____, but I really am _____ . “
  • Next, you will be asked  to collect all students’ papers and redistribute them randomly. 
  • After everyone has read one anonymous response aloud to the class, you will be asked to call on students to share what it felt like to speak from someone else’s perspective.
  • Finally, you will be asked to call on any students who would like to respond to any of the statements read aloud.
  • Follow along with your students and model active participation.



Move This World High School SEL Curriculum

Reflection After the Practice

  • What was it like for you to hear your student’s responses to the prompt? How might you create more opportunities for students to express who they are and feel safe doing so?
  • Have you noticed a change in how students engage with each other?

The Research Behind It

Evidence That It Works

A review of school based interventions suggests that to respond with empathy, students need to have an understanding of emotions and the ability to take other’s perspectives.

For example, in one candy-sharing study with children and teens ages 6–17, researchers told participants that they could select as many candies as they wanted, but that the next child would only get to pick from the remaining candy. Children tended to show more empathy and, in turn, share more candy with the next child when the researchers provided information about the next child’s emotional state. This research suggests that we may encourage more empathy and altruism from others when we are willing to share and learn more about each other.

Why Does It Matter?

Empathy helps students cultivate strong relationships with their classmates, encouraging helping behavior, sharing, and a willingness to comfort others. Student empathy can also contribute to a greater sense of safety at school. Research also indicates that an increase in empathy can decrease bullying and aggression among children.

Empathy has also been considered as a driver of morality because research links empathy with altruistic behavior. Thus, empathy can help us to break away from a focus on self and to respond to the needs of others.

“Learning to stand in somebody else's shoes, to see through their eyes, that's how peace begins.”
–Barack Obama
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