Today’s #satchat was one of the best I have participated in a while. The topic was “Telling Your Story” and the discussion was enlightening and inspiring. The chat came alive for me after reading Peter DeWitt’s comment
When we don’t encourage our students to tell their stories they may be suffering in silence.
While I couldn’t agree more with Peter, I also believe that many of our students aren’t able to tell their stories. So we must tell it for them. The discussion inspired me such that I vowed to write my next piece about one of the unknown children at my school who is “suffering in silence”.
For the sake of anonymity, I will call the student Steven throughout the piece. Steven is a child who spends much of his time in what I would call “The Land of Misfit Toys”. What I mean by this characterization is that not only does Steven not fit in with the majority of the children, but he also stands out from most of the children.
Steven doesn’t speak as well as the other children and he is in the racial minority in his class. He is prone to losing his temper and actually does it quite often. These two things cause him to feel uncomfortable and ostracized quite often.
What I have mentioned about Steven so far were things that I was able to learn without much effort. Similar to what you can learn by reading the back of a book. Unfortunately, it was what I didn’t know, but learned by way of a conference with his mom, that helped me really hear Steven’s story for the first time. I feel like now I have at least read a chapter of his book.
In the meeting with Steven’s mom she was asked to share some of his strengths. She immediately shared that he gets along well with little children. We all agreed that this was a great quality. But when she explained why he gets along with little children my heart sank. She said that Steven gets along well with little children “because he knows that they won’t judge him”.
What a powerful and yet heartbreaking observation!
This explains his anger. Steven believes he is spending his days in school with people who are constantly judging him. And he doesn’t want to be judged. Who really does? Most of us just want to be. As adults, we at least have learned some coping mechanisms that allow us to deal with the stresses of the world. At 9 years old Steven has not, nor should he have to.
The world is complex enough for a 9-year-old to have to navigate, they don’t need the added burden of having to constantly worry what others think about them. Just when many children feel like they have a good handle on the wheel someone goes and redraws the map.
I truly think this is the case with Steven.
At least now I know a little but more about him. I don’t yet know his full story but with the help of his mom, I at least know about his first chapter. And I intend on finishing the book.
I have no happy ending here. Just advice for myself and for others. We must learn our students’ stories. If they won’t tell them to us then we need to find someone who will. We can’t skim and we can’t just read the back. It may be a lot easier, but in the end what have we really gained but time?
We must take the time to learn as many stories as possible. We owe it to them and we owe it to their parents. Someone spent a lot of time crafting each one of them. They are worth much more than a skim.