“The shortest distance between two people is a story.” –Patti Digh
Before first period, Sandra told me about her embarrassing cheerleading accident. After second period, TJ described a movie he saw over the weekend. Kyle always had a story for me; one day it was about his new kitten, on another it was about his little brother. Sandra’s story elicited words of concern, TJ got some “tell me more” questions and with Kyle, I laughed out loud.
Student’s stories are important and not to be glossed over or taken lightly.
I believe that some students presented their stories to me as a gift, the modern day version of the old-fashioned apple-for-a-teacher. Something personal to make me laugh, or smile.
Other kids shared their stories as a compliment. They knew that I was interested in them and so they assumed that I cared about what movie they saw over the weekend or what happened at cheerleading practice. And I did.
Some kids offered their stories because they were trying to create a connection with me by divulging a bit of their out-of-school lives. It worked. I enjoyed learning about what they did, about who they were when they were not in my classroom.
This is also the reason I shared personal stories with my classes. I told them stories about my own experiences when I was their age, about my kids, and about my many mistakes. I did this so that they could see me as something more than just their teacher, hoping that maybe they could find something in my story that helped them connect to me.
Regardless of whether a student’s story is meant as a gift, a means to connect or comes from a need to have someone listen to them, I was a teacher long enough to understand that each of these stories were little blessings. Often awkward or effusive, sometimes guarded but always sincere, whenever students chose to share a bit of their personal lives with me, I felt honored. No matter what the story, what each storyteller was really saying was, “I am letting you into my life…and maybe, if you play your cards right, into my heart.”
So, when a child shares a seemingly trivial or unimportant little anecdote with you, pay attention. Know that something important is happening and be grateful.