This is the second installment of a series of posts on storytelling – Know your story, tell your story. My hope is to share a few anecdotes that have shaped me as a person and as an educator in order to connect and grow.
As I mentioned in my opening post, my grandmother and her stories were instrumental in my youth. Living only a block away from me, I was able to spend a lot of time with her throughout my childhood. The fact that she was retired and I was little gave us the luxury of time. On many occasions she talked about the fact that she and her two sisters (one of them a twin) were school aged during the great depression. She would tell me that as kids, they didn’t realize this era was so different from other times in history because it was all they knew. Families were struggling, but it didn’t seem that way at the time – it was just their reality. Kids were kids, attending school, playing, socializing, and spending time with family.
This story gives me pause to think and reflect. Reality for our kids is wherever they are – much smaller than our reality as adults. They may not fully realize how different things are outside the world they live in (I am guilty of this sometimes as an adult!). Whether living in poverty or an affluent community – kids are kids. We tend to be more aware as adults of the increased struggle that some of our students face day-to-day.
This story also reminds me that the definition of opportunity and accomplishment varies from community to community. There are some students who arrive to kindergarten already knowing their educational expectations include post-secondary schooling, whereas others are from families where they could be the first to graduate from high school. By sharing stories outside of our students’ realities, we can introduce inspirational ideas that could potentially change their future.
Her story was and continues to be part of my story as I grew from a child to an adult and into my profession as an educator. I recognize that students bring their varied stories to school. We have the gift of opening their eyes other realities through everything from novels to science experiments, from mathematical applications to diverse cultures and history, from physical education to the arts. We encourage sharing of stories to further understand their worlds and honor their personal realities. When reality gets too emotional or personal, we engage with kids one on one and listen. We show compassion for difficult situations and provide support or guidance to find additional help. Their stories become part of ours and the vital connection of relationships to learning is strengthened.
How is your reality reshaped when you connect with your students and listen to their stories? For me personally, this is one way I know I learn…every day.