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Saturday, February 06, 2016

Listening to Understand: Potential and Power of Story

I know that one man or woman's story does not tell the story of all people in his or her racial, cultural, ethnic, religious, or other group, but I do know that a story can shed light on students' experiences that differ from your own experiences.

That happened to me last week at ECET2 when I heard Dr. Anthony Marshall talk about his work to empower African American young men in his school in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Through his story and the story of his students, I was able to step into the shoes of a young African American male and see school and life, in part, through that angle. That helped me a lot to understand my students better.

I know that there are agencies out there like Primary Source working to help educators understand the many cultural, religious, racial, ethnic, and class experiences of our students. Yet time often prohibits us from listening to and learning about all those stories. But when we make the time to hear the stories, we gain significant understanding that strengthens our ability to teach all children well.

As I think of an opportunity we may have to share stories and work around the topic of equity and empowerment, I'm wondering how we could invite many to tell their stories and share their experiences as one way to grow our understanding, efforts, and commitment to all the children we teach.

And as I think more on this, I wonder too how often we make the time during parent conferences or student meetings, to give students and family members the chance to tell their story and relay their experiences.

Story is integral to the work we do as teachers and making time to listen to and understand the stories of those we serve as well as educators who have insight into their own cultures, race, religion, ethnicity, and class, will help us to do our jobs better.