If It Hasn’t Worked Out...It’s Not the End
We are the author of our stories. We get the opportunity to share bold and amazing stories with the world. Some stories are nearly impossible to miss, while other stories are buried a little deeper and require us to uncover the new chapters. The magic of stories happens when we hear from everyone, decide if they are windows or mirrors, focus on the big picture and find a way to celebrate our stories because they are ours, and they are perfect.
The rough edges, difficult moments, and experiences that have nearly broken us, we get the opportunity to offer the moments that have made us who we are. Some days it might feel like our story is headed in the wrong direction, and we might question if it will work out in the end. I love John Lennon’s perspective, “Everything will be okay in the end. If it's not okay, it's not the end.”
When we own our stories and teach students how to appreciate where they are, we acknowledge that the middle is not the end.
Life is hard; the struggle is guaranteed, but you can exercise your right to choose where and how to struggle. (Jennifer Pharr Davis)
Which Students Haven’t Told Their Stories Yet?
As we get used to telling our stories and hearing the students and staff members who freely offer their experiences, it is also important to notice who we haven’t heard from. It is important to be relentless about finding a way to listen to everyone tell a story. Every story matters and is worth sharing, even if that story happens to be only a few words in length.
Stories Serve as Mirrors or Windows
This weekend I listened to The Good News, Brad News Podcast, where Brad Hughes interviewed Alix Maffin-Pirie (@MsAlixMaffin) about her intentions for stories in the classroom. One thing that stood out was when she explained that stories serve as either a window or a mirror. Window meaning kids can see a different point of view or look through a window to a new world. Mirror, meaning a book can point out things about the reader and help drive reflection. When we hear, read or watch stories unfold students can decide if the story serves them as a window or a mirror.
Telling Our Stories
One of my favorite phrases hangs in our home and reads, “Our Story”. Everything we do tells a story. And, behind every number, symbol and detail,a story waiting to be told. The clothing we wear, the items we carry, the way our classroom looks, the hashtags we use, our social media accounts, pictures we display, and playlists on our phones and conversations we have tell stories.
Our students have stories that they are begging to share. The key is noticing the details and asking about the story.
Focus on the Focus
Two of my favorite leaders in education recently ran a series called "Focus On the Focus.” Dave Schmittou and Katelynn Giordano from the Teach Better Team (@teachbetterteam) discussed all things related to grades and assessments over a five-week series. While I have not made my way through the entire series yet, one thing continues to stand out. As educators, we need to ask ourselves; what the purpose is, and then focus on making sure that it continues to be our priority. I often think about what is important in my story.
What’s Really Important?
I think about focusing a lot when we are working on reading or writing in the classroom. But, the concept of keeping the main thing the main thing could not be more powerful when it comes to time in the classroom or our own stories. Sometimes it is easy to get distracted by the process, but it’s when we see the big picture that things make sense, and our stories take shape.
The Story from the 2020-21 School Year
The 2020-21 school year has been filled with its share of challenges. The story of this year can be told in so many different ways. We can choose to highlight the resilience, the strengths, and the perseverance that has been shown, or we can focus on the struggle, what we did not have and the circumstances that made teaching, and learning more difficult.
The Power of Stories
The Staff Room Podcast #75 does a fantastic job talking about the power of stories. Chey and Pav interview Beth Lyons, a librarian, and discuss how we share stories. This episode had me reflect on how important our stories are.
In addition to the Staff Room Podcast, Tish Richmond’s (@tishrich) podcast from May 9th, Make Learning Magical, featured extraordinary educator and director Todd Nesloney who shared not only his story but explained how he amplifies other people. His book, Stories from the Webb is now on my “To be read list.” Nesloney’s book reminds us that our stories are worth telling and that it is the real, authentic, and raw moments in the trenches that give other people life and a place to connect. Ask people to tell you their stories.
Music Tells Stories
Music tells the best stories. Sometimes it is the entire album, sometimes the lyrics of a song, or sometimes it is how we connect the song to our lives that reminds us where we are in our story.
Since music has the power to explain how we are feeling on a deeper level than most single words can convey, it is what we turn to when we either don’t know how to articulate what is happening or are looking for a way to affirm what we are feeling. Recently, I have started incorporating more music into my classroom. I want the story my classroom tells to include music.
When I host my #musicminute each class period, I play a song that the students are to try and guess the title and artist of followed the location in one of the text where it belongs. We are able to not only review themes and texts that we have covered throughout the year but have an opportunity to share a common experience while listening to the same music.
The #musicminute in my classroom reminds me of story time in the elementary classroom, or the days when families would gather around the piano, radio or record player to share a song. One of my earliest memories involves my extended family gathered around the piano singing while my Grandfather played Christmas carols.Today when I hear music, I not only consider how it could be embedded into a story like a soundtrack might do, but whether or not the song, in the same way a story would, serves as a window or a mirror.
Stories shape us, serve as windows or mirrors, remind us to focus on the focus and give us space to embed music within our stories. As Brene’ Brown says, “When we own our stories, we avoid being trapped as characters in stories someone else is telling.” If you do not love your story right now, that means it is not the end, and there is more to come.