Discover the steps in the complex dance
Listen closely to what they’re not saying
Then lead them gently back to themselves.
Over twenty years ago, I had the unique opportunity to participate in a program that was to change the course of my life and the lives of my students. That program, Philadelphia Young Playwrights Festival was founded by the late Adele Magner who believed that every person has a story to tell and that as teachers, we needed to help our students tell their stories and open up our hearts to listen.
In today’s blog, I am sharing a speech that I delivered to a group of 500 new Philadelphia teachers at their induction ceremony in 1992. That day, my former student and dear friend Terrance Jenkins was my co-presenter and in his speech, he talked about how he became empowered to change his life through the process of writing a play.
Those of us who view teaching as a human endeavor have become increasing discouraged and frightened by the current policies that are crippling the imagination and potential of young people, particularly young people in “failing” urban schools.
Stories, real stories that are rooted in our shared humanity — they are what is needed to combat the “drill and kill” approach to “achievement” that is alienating and crippling young people and driving them away from schools.
Teachers need to reclaim our humanity in the classroom and connect to our students best selves — their potential to lead creative, generative, healthy and productive lives.