Tuesday, February 10, 2015
I like to make myself real. Students too often view instructors as this big authority figure up in front, someone who lives at school and has never had experience with the real world. Sure, instructors have a family. Sure, they live in a house. But, beyond that, there is not much thought given to concepts such as joy and pain, hardship and fortune. There is no emotion, no soul, no heart attached to the person at the lectern. So, I share my stories. To make myself real. To help students feel comfortable coming to me, asking things of me, and sharing with me as I have with them.
I read an essay today. This was an essay that I had written at one point in response to an invitation to attend a poverty simulation. Having grown up in such a situation, I was not only not eager to attend but angry at the assumption that such concepts as hunger and home insecurity could be learned in a lovely facility complete with heat and refreshments and the reliable transportation to attend. As it happens, I was asked to read the essay to the very group onto which I spat. It was a powerful experience. It was powerful not only for those sitting in the chairs but for me as well. It was ownership. I had claimed my life.
You should know that I spent many years hiding this life, overcoming, pretending it did not exist. When I say “many,” I mean that only about four years ago did I begin to put this essay, along with similar others, into book form and post them for all to read. For ALL to read. It was as painful a thing as I have ever done, and this coming from a woman who has given birth four times. I began to share my story. With the help of a writer friend, he pulling the words out of me, me cursing and dragging my feet, I came to a place of love and forgiveness toward my parents and my past, toward society and myself. I came to a place of ownership for the life I have led.
And so I share this story every term with my classes. To make myself real. To put a heart to a face. It is a powerful story, so powerful that even after all this time I cannot read it without tears. The tears are mine and they are those on the faces in the crowd.
I read my story today in the last few minutes of class. As I cleared my eyes and looked up from my reading, a line had formed from the front of the class to the back. These students, from whom many instructors never get a name, never get a personal story, never care to know detail one, these students stood in line to offer me hugs, big fat hugs that meant serious business. They built me up. They praised me. They thanked me for being who I am. They thanked me. For being who I am. And one? One thanked me because she could see herself. She thanked me because she could see herself in my words.