One of the reasons I love teaching is that I am genuinely fascinated by people’s stories. When you teach, no matter what age, what ability, what subject, you learn so much about your student’s lives. As teacher, you get to watch their life stories evolve and develop. You become a formative part of that process. Ultimately learning changes a person just by its very nature to expand thinking and thereby transform. As a result, the classroom takes on a narrative all its own. The stories of the individuals become the story of the class as a whole. This collective story is what defines the community of the classroom.
Children are often described as simple and straight forward. They are considered uncomplicated perhaps because they are typically direct in their approach. I disagree with this notion. Although I usually pride myself in being able to size people up quickly, I know that it takes time to get to know the kids in my class. My first impressions of them are not always accurate. Sometimes my first impression is spot on, but the child changes over time. And this is precisely because a child is more nuanced than we often give them credit for. The root of a child’s behavior or personality is not always what it first appears to be. Their stories are more complicated than that.
As I meet my new class – all 17 of them – I am struck by the depth of these young lives. They are stories in progress. The early years of their memoirs. Already so much imprinted on those developing minds. I am intrigued to know them and decipher who they are. Where they fall in the sibling order, what the family dynamic is like, what their expectations of school are, how they respond to responsibility, challenge, conflict. And most importantly what baggage they bring with them – isn’t that really the bottom line of all our stories?
I was sitting with my new group of 17 today – they were listening intently to me – and I felt a great sense of respect for these children. Like I was part of something important and we were at the beginning of a very powerful journey together. I am anxious to see where this story goes!