watching the teachers teach in a trembling world

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

I have been teaching for a surprisingly long time now—elementary after-school programs, creativity workshops in my family room, gatherings across the country, my work at Penn—but there is nothing quite like watching other teachers teach.

I got to do that yesterday among the educators of the Lower Merion School District. I'd been invited in for a morning dedicated to writing. I'd been asked to teach, and I decided to teach truth with the help of my workbook, Tell the Truth. Make It Matter., as well as some words from Ali Benjamin. But before and after my workshop hour, I was listening—watching as these dedicated professionals launched a program designed to nurture story-inclined students...and to help those students nurture others.

The teachers inspired, suggested, surprised. They distributed custom notebooks lined with student work. They read aloud from student stories and shared their own. They called out not just for ideas, but for a democracy of ideas. They engaged. They meant what they said.

The world is a trembling, uncertain place, but something entirely tangible and lastingly good happens when teachers and students give up half an August day to talk about why stories actually matter, and to make those stories matter even more.

Earlier this week, from across the country, Glenda Cowen-Funk, another teacher thinking about Truth and our national landscape, surprised me with an astonishingly thoughtful essay describing how Tell the Truth might enter classroom conversations. That amazing essay is here. A few days before, the educator Paul Hankins surprised me with the photograph you see above: Truth lying in wait in his classroom.

There is an easy way to teach, an easy path, a tried and mostly true. But then there are the educators from whom I've learned this week—teachers who step in with something new and with open hearts and with the words, Let's see what happens.

Teachers who dare to take another path and to be there when the new door opens.


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