I just finished reading “The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle” by Leslie Conner. It is a fantastic book about a boy who struggles to read and write. It is about so much more, but a piece stood out to me. Mason’s school counselor sees his struggles and also sees the importance for him to tell his story. She tells him about the “Dragon” a program he can speak to that will record his words. I do not want to give too much away but there is a mystery, friendship, perseverance and love all wound up into this engaging story.
This is not a post though about this magical book. This is a post about stories and connection. I find more and more that as the world changes, the speed of social media and micro thoughts, have lead people to tell their stories less and less. The result I fear is that we connect with others less and less.
The stories of others are the way we see ourselves, that connection that is so important for empathy and understanding is so much easier to achieve when we take the time to learn about each other. To be connected, to be a part of something. When we look at the struggles we are faced with as people, not just educators, but as people, I can’t help but wonder how much that severed connection is responsible.
As a teacher, I always look first to my students. What are their stories? What is getting in the way of them forming a connection as part of the bigger community? Going back I look at a few situations where learning the story of my students has helped tremendously in building those connections that lead to a more successful classroom but also a safer community. If I did not sit down in the hall with the student that was getting laughs eating food out of the garbage and ask him what was going on, if he did not see that I was there to hear his words and truly listen to his story who knows if people would have found out there was no food at home, that mom had lost her job. If as a teacher my first action was to punish this student for his distracting, silly behavior instead of listening to his story would I have ever earned his trust that I was there to help? Would I have lost that chance for him to form a connection with our community? I believe so. Not every story needs to be so extreme, I student that is afraid to talk about being bullied, or that struggles to understand the content in a class is held back from asking for help because they feel embarrassed or afraid or that no one will hear them. They do not see their stories as valuable. I feel like we need to look at this and not just say we should do better we must do better. We need to listen to our student’s stories, we need to help them to put them “on paper” in whichever way they are comfortable. We need to help them to feel connected to the community of learners we are striving to create.
I don’t know if this is the magic formula to solve all classroom problems but I do know that understanding the stories of others, our students, our co-workers. Putting our stories out there can help to build a community of support. It is more than being kind to one another, holding a door for someone, picking up their pencil or giving them some food from your desk stash is so important but I fear that those moments only occupy the moment, that student will leave your room and unless we try to know them, to know their story, to connect, our impact will only be momentary.
I know this is a ramble, sitting at PD and the thoughts just became a bit distracting.
So I fed it to the Dragon.