Dear Professor,

13 December, 2015

Dear Jim,

Margaret Atwood writes, “The answers you get from literature depend on the questions you pose.” While I was fumbling around some of my favorite books and quotes, along with our readings from this semester, I came across Atwood’s words and couldn’t help but find an inescapable truth in them. However, I read the quote something more along the lines of, “The answers you receive from students depend on the questions you pose.”

This semester, as we’ve navigated in and around what it means to lead young people well, I’ve developed more questions than I thought possible. As I move along in my career as a student and a teacher, a human, a citizen, a sister, and a friend, I’m making peace with the welcoming of doubts and curiosities, overwhelming inquiries, and the uncomfortable, ambiguous answers in regards to what it means to hold and live out these labels well.

We’ve explored the overarching question, “How and why might everyone’s stories teach,” and though I understand this is more of a rhetorical question than a linear pull, I would very much like to answer it.

Around seven thirty every Tuesday and Thursday morning this semester, we have individually entered the classroom on the fifth floor of the Education building. In doing so, we carried with us our very own memories, pasts, assumptions, pains, illnesses, beliefs, joys, loves, hopes, fears, failures, insecurities, impulses, and aspirations. We placed these fragments of ourselves into a bag, tying and fastening the strings in order to safely bring the collective moments of our beings along with us. Anticipating and expecting these pieces to help us in fearlessly trudging into one another’s lives, we each traipsed through the past fifteen weeks with a desire to be seen, heard, and maybe even understood. This is what it means to be a human, I’m sure of it. We clothe ourselves in different forms of expression, we exert ourselves during different moments, and certainly within different extremes, but we generally unite alongside one common thread: the need for our stories to be acknowledged as worthy, significant, and surely, ones worth reciting and repeating.

While we took our seats in our self-proclaimed multi-colored spinning chairs, we assumed our separate, unique roles. Some of us were exhausted, while others were anxious. Some of us entered the room jittery from the coffee we consumed before-hand, while others arrived dreary and spent from the night of work they endured prior to. Regardless, we showed up. We sat and learned and listened to one another. We reacted and responded. We wrestled around concepts we couldn’t fully grasp or agree upon. We wrote and reminisced. We shared and contemplated. We pondered and grappled over hard questions. We performed the same tasks in different, irreplaceable ways. We received and provided feedback for one another. We grew singularly due to these dynamics, but more than that, our diversities were received, embraced, appreciated, and used, to seamlessly morph our noticeably detached stories into one meaningful experience. This is what it means to be human. I’m sure of it.

These “meaningful experiences” are how stories teach. The gratitude and admiration I feel in accordance to every human being I have ever spoken to long enough to hear and watch their story play out, is why stories teach. We become gentler, kinder, wiser beings when we are surrounded and immersed in relationships that chant the anthem that proclaims, “We can be different together. And we will be better for it.”

As I said before, I am infused with questions. They spill out of me. You’ve asked us multiple times if we’re going into teaching because it is the profession that will aid us in becoming the humans we want to progress into. My answer is yes. I cannot give you many answers in relation to what I know for sure, but to that question I can. And in knowing that, many of my doubts, insecurities, and fears fall away. Good questions and instinctively honest answers will do that. They eliminate the seemingly omnipresent fog, only to present you with a welcomed clarity.

Thank you for facilitating a class that bombarded us with questions and alternative perspectives. Thank you for asking us to name and challenge our assumptions. Thank you for presenting us with a calm way to settle into the muck of inconclusiveness. Thank you for asking us to be confident in knowing that we are here for reasons that trump the need to always know the answers. Thank you for telling us your story, and thank you for being attentive when we reached out to tell you ours.

I hope to be an educator, a sister, a friend, a human, that continues to be lead and inspired by my desire to question and wonder at the people and the world around me. I think they let teachers do that? Right?

Sincerely,

-b

 

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