This morning my fellow #ASCD13 attendees and I had the opportunity to hear Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and Maya Angelou. Both were spirited, frank women with amazing experiences and accomplishments in their lifetimes. As Maya Angelou was speaking, I got a text from my 9-year-old daughter saying she missed me and hoping I was having fun. In response, I told her I loved her and missed her, too. I told her that I was listening to a famous author (and so much more) named Maya Angelou, and that I would have to tell her about her when I got home. Sending her that simple message was a powerful moment for me. How do I support my daughters growing into strong, funny, confident women like the ladies I had the privilege of learning from this morning? What are a couple of quick themes I’ll take from the morning conversations as an educator and a mom?
Every person has a history.
Both women were intentional in sharing their their history. O’Connor as a cowgirl on a ranch and Angelou as a toddler taking the train near cross country have evolved into some of the most influential women we’ll ever know. We need children to know and be proud of their history as they grow. As a mom, I have two Ethiopian-born children and two biological children all with their own unique experiences. In our schools, every one of our children has an evolving story impacted by factors that impact their own perceptions and actions. As adults we model the value that history by sharing our own stories, including both successes and times of challenge.
As educators we have a responsibility to honor & respect that history.
My friends and I also discussed what might have happened if these women were consistently told they couldn’t do what they aspired to along the way or didn’t have anyone that gave them an opportunity. What might we all have missed if these women had been totally stifled? Transferring to our current context, what might happen to our students if their stories are not honored and respected? Often we are asked to make decisions about children that simply don’t take these stories into account. Other times our decisions are challenged by those who don’t know a child’s whole story or philosophically believe in one-size-fits all approach with regard to discipline and student learning. Regardless of our role, we simply can’t ascribe to that; we need to shape consciousness of those around us (Fowler) to move this mindset forward.
How have you found ways to honor student stories? How have your tried or seen others worked to promote a philosophical shift to consider those stories as we support our students? Maya Angelou talked about being rainbows in the clouds for each other. Let’s do that for our kids and consider it a great privilege to be part of who they become.