Friday, January 31, 2014

Once Upon a Time...

Once upon a time, I decided to become an educator.

This is how my story starts. Simple and true, six years ago I could have never guessed the twists and turns my career would hold for me or how this story would unfold. Coming off a week of learning, first at the Science Leadership Academy for Educon and then in Florida for FETC, I am pushed to reflect on where I started in education, how I have grown into my role as a teacher, and what I will work towards in learning and changing for the future of our kids.

My story is messy. It is complex. It is full of peaks and valleys, and there are even some pieces of this journey that I will choose to never share publicly. It is a story of my heart growing through the kids I teach and the support of amazing mentors and professional friends. There is both joy and pain in this story, and I anticipate that as I continue to travel this path as an educator I will only add to both of these pieces along the way.

I had the privilege to share a piece of my story this week at FETC. Working alongside some wonderful people, I participated in a presentation surrounding Visual Literacy, with a focus on storytelling. I watched the people in our session listen, smile, laugh, and open their hearts to share pieces of their own story with complete strangers. It was fun, there was music, and we even sang (Happy Birthday Bob!). 

Six years ago I could have never anticipated I would be in a position to share so much of myself with such a gifted group of educators. Three years ago I would have never believed I would love teaching as much as I do this year. Last year, I would have never had the confidence to lead a session at a state-wide conference in front of people with so much experience and talent. Today, all of these are pieces of my story.

It seems, though, that's how story goes. We can guide our stories, make our decisions and plan our actions, but in the end our stories begin to take on a life of their own. They, in a sense, craft themselves into something bigger than any of us could hope to be in this present moment. Our stories are unfolding around us, in front of us, within us, and trailing behind us. The professional and personal stories we share build bonds and open our hearts to secure the allies we need to walk this road in education, the road that ensures the most wonderful future for our kids. These stories break down the walls, expose our flaws, and allow grace to enter in a very big way. Our stories begin to thread together to build powerful communities, deep missions for growth, and perseverance through collective strength. 

In a world where so many silly things about ourselves can be known and accessed, it can be scary to share the more fragile pieces of who we are. Still, we must ensure we are sharing the deepest parts of our story. What we love, our vision for a better future, and our hopes and dreams are not to shielded away. It is only when we are vulnerable enough to share these pieces of ourselves do we open the floodgates of truth and opportinuty that tend to flow naturally from this level of exposure. We have a responsibility to model sharing our own story while creating safe spaces to catch the stories of others. Together we have to love enough to listen for the story.

We must engage our learning community in hopes of reaching truth rather than simply waiting for them to get to the point. We must push one another to find strength in their stories as it builds upon what makes us human. At our core, each person in this world shares a connection with another person. Are we looking for that connection or is the focus on own motives or gains? When we begin to shift our thinking to finding that connection, our hearts grow a little bigger, kindness flows a little deeper, and our capacity for grace expands little wider. And in a world filled with confusion and pain, we could all just a slight expanse of the heart.

In the craziness of months ahead, the throws of testing and stress of bleak winter days, I will seek to catch the stories of both kids and adults. I will be brave enough to share deeply with those around me, moving from the surface story to the real story that lies in my heart and speaks from my soul. I will listen a little more closely, with tender ears that don't judge but remain memorized by the connections we can make with one another. I will help the people around me find power and comfort in their own voice and strength in their own story. I will embrace the uncertainty that comes with exposure and vulnerability in the space of sharing myself, trusting the compassion I know can exist in each one of us, while practicing being gracious when that does not come as a natural first response.

What is your story? Where does it start and how are you sharing the uniqueness of your journey? Are you able to risk enough pride and vulnerability to share these pieces of yourself with your community? At the end of the day, who really knows you, the deepest pieces of your heart? Let's all strive to connect deeper, reaching for that honesty that exists in the story of who we are. Let us trust that in stepping toward this experience we lay the foundation for our individual story, modeling the way for a stronger collective narrative to be crafted and nurtured in this same space.