A friend pointed me in the direction of this TED talk by Chimamanda Ngozi:
I’ve been thinking about it a lot, especially in conjunction with this quote from Adrienne Rich:
”When those who have the power to name and to socially construct reality choose not to see you or hear you … when someone with the authority of a teacher, say, describes the world and you are not in it, there is a moment of psychic disequilibrium, as if you looked in the mirror and saw nothing.”
I wonder how that experience of seeing the world described and realizing you’re not in impacts our students. What message does it send them about whether or not their stories matter?
Do the stories we share and value (as reflected by the curriculum we present) let them know that there is a place for their stories as well? How hard is it for our students to see themselves in our classrooms?
The world outside of our schools becomes much more interested in our students right about the same time we stop focusing on them. Our students leaves us and move on to colleges, employers, and other institutions–they begin interacting with the world in a much different way than when they were with us. This is the point at which these institutions become very interested in the types of people our students have become (and are still becoming)–and it’s right when we’ve moved on to educating the next group of students.
We let go of these students and send them off into the world so we can focus our attention on the next group of students. We still care about our graduates, and I love watching from afar as they move on to college and beyond–but we don’t focus on them the same way as we do our current students.
I’ve been really aware this year of the usual “shift in focus” that happens for me every fall. I’ve definitely shifted focus by becoming a student again, but I feel much more connected to the seniors I “graduated” with last spring than I have in years past. We’re sharing a lot of the same experiences, and I love having this new perspective on what it’s like to transition out of high school.
Of course, my transition is slightly different from theirs. My program is only a year long, and much more focused. The “what comes next” question also looks a lot different. But I’m looking forward to taking this new perspective with me when I return to working in a high school next year.