An inquisitive and articulate colleague of mine recently brought up some great questions about how we frame our experiences. It was a pretty interesting angle. She asked this question: If we say that we learned to be better teachers because of having bad training or other adversity to overcome, is it because it’s true or because it makes us feel better? Are we really in a better place as teachers than people who have had good pedigrees and early success? Or is our badge for overcoming hardship “just a story” to help us cope?
I think it’s both. If you want an answer badly, but aren’t getting it yet, you are going to learn how to work for it in order to get it in the future. If you have not yet tasted success, how are you going to believe it is possible unless somebody, and maybe only you, tells you that you can get it? I think telling yourself a story that moves you toward learning and improving is great, even if other people don’t understand.
Regarding my place in the profession, the stories I tell myself at the deepest levels are things I don’t share, period. I might be wrong, but I think it’s best to keep some things private. If the story I tell myself is helping me to cope with, overcome, and master my problems, I’m not about to allow someone else the opportunity to judge it.
If I believe that I deserve to have a free and beautiful voice, and some judge says that I cannot, which do you think is the mentally healthier story to believe, his or my own? If looking back at old pedagogy and performance skills turns me on, but discussing trending science bores me and feels alienating – or vice versa – which should I pursue? The one that gives me life deserves to be the story I keep telling myself, even if it makes me an outlier. Knowing that different people need different stories, we need to give them the permission to have them.