After attending the ASCD Empower 19 Conference, I have so much to write about. It will probably take me over a year to get through everything; there was so much information and words filled with inspiration. I have decided to begin with what made some of the presenters so special and so inspiring. Many of the presenters told their stories. Telling their stories brought the sessions alive; you could relate to their experiences and to the reasons for what they are doing now. Their experiences led to making a difference in the lives of others.
These presenters in some cases brought me to tears. Some made me laugh. A few used cuss words to emphasize their story – it worked. We know the real world and the struggles that surround our kids. Their words filled me with hope not only for students and education, but also for myself. Good presenters let us know their stories. Good teachers share with their students who they are. Great teachers learn the stories of their students.
Sharing your story makes you vulnerable. I have yet to share my own story. Some know it already, but I still am not comfortable with sharing my story with the world. When my previous students ask, “Why did you retire?” I find that I cannot answer the question. Again they ask, “Why did you retire?” I know what I want to say, but the words will not come out. Sometimes life throws you a curve ball. You swing, and you miss. In the end, you strike out. It doesn’t matter that there was a bad call. It only matters that you are out, as determined by the umpire.
I have shared bits and pieces of my childhood experiences with students. I know it would have been helpful to them to share more. Some of my experiences are like many of theirs. I understand their struggles and know that they can go on to do great and wonderful things. Problems do not have to define you. When students hear and see that others have survived difficulties and gone on to be successful; these stories help bring hope to students.
So I begin my writing with the importance of sharing your story in a way that touches students where they are and brings hope to their situations. Of course, sharing a story is only the beginning. After that – the hard work begins. It doesn’t end with telling the story; after the story action occurs – working to improve student achievement and how students view themselves and the world.
As I sat waiting for the first session to begin, the presenter played some music: Lean on Me. We tell our stories and then build trust so that students believe they can lean on us in times of trouble. “When you have pain and sorrow… When you’re not strong… When your load is too heavy… I’ll help carry you. We all need somebody to lean on.” “Lean on me.”