Everyone’s story is O.K.

We have been reading about and discussing some powerful and uncomfortable topics in our classes over the past week.  It isn’t the first time I have been introduced to thinking and talking about things such as privilege and ‘isms’, but what strikes me as powerful is that we are discussing these difficult topics- as required by the State of Alaska.  The fact that the State of Alaska recognizes that these conversations need to be had, deems them important- and believes that educators need to have spent time hearing classmates stories and thinking about things such as racism and privilege before teaching in a classroom, is powerful and I believe a step in the right direction.  We have a long ways to go, but this seems a positive step.

In the section of reading that my group of four was assigned to dive deeper into today, one take-home learning for me as an educator was that ‘everyone’s story is O.K.’  It sounds simple, but through our own biases and perceptions, it is easy to forget that simple lesson.  No matter how difficult a students life-story, how seemingly easy a story, how boring a student thinks their story is, or how challenging a particular personality or students story is for me to hear, all life stories and perspectives should be heard, validated and recognized.  From listening comes understanding.  From understanding comes tolerance.  From tolerance comes transformation.

I have spent many years helping to facilitate study abroad programs for U.S. high school youth.  If you don’t yet know that about me, it is time I put this in a blog– because it is something I am passionate about.  One particular company I have worked for, which I believe does amazing work, has at its’ programatic goal getting groups of diverse U.S. students together into small groups (12 students) and then send them to a foreign country for the summer where they live with families.  What is brilliant, to me, about this design is that the students meet up on almost a daily basis and become each others support group.  Students from all over the U.S., with different languages, religions, colors, living arrangements and abilities begin to learn about and rely on other students– whom they may have never met or chosen to befriend without being put into this intense learning environment.  I have had many amazing student transformations occur on these programs.  But one sticks out.  The learning came from  a white male student that was from somewhere in the midwest.  During our closing ceremony, when we were all given the time to say what we wanted and reflect on our 7 week experience together, he thanked the program and told me and the other students that he had been racist before this experience, and that after having spent time with our group, he now realized that.  He was around 16 years old.  Our trip had been the first time he had ever talked to someone with a different color skin than himself and the learning had been profound.  I just wanted to share the story.  His story is O.K.

Thank you for facilitating the space for these conversations, Angie.  I still have and always will have a lot to learn.



4 thoughts on “Everyone’s story is O.K.”

  1. Erin, what a great post and insight into ‘everyone’s story is ok’ – working with high school kids I felt like this issue came up a lot, especially with all the angst and judgement that students are surrounded with, and often bombarded with due to social media. I would always respond with “…and that’s ok” as a means to try and get students to remember the importance of understanding different perspectives and stories. Now I can delve so much deeper into those conversations. And the example of your study abroad was pretty awesome too, I personally have never heard a student admit to being a racist before so that must of been such a powerful moment! Awesome work!

  2. Wow Erin!

    Thanks for sharing your story and highlighting that section of the reading. There was so much to take in and it is amazing to hear that you witnessed an “O.K. story” unfold. Also it was good reminder that this training is now required by the state of Alaska. Thanks for drawing that to my attention because it makes what we are learning all that more empowering.

  3. Erin,

    Thank you so much for sharing that story! I have goosebumps. I love that you end your sharing of his experiences and changing views by saying, “His story is O.K.”. That needs to be part of the process, doesn’t it? Instead of holding it against people, we need to lovingly guide them to the truth. Thank you so much for recognizing that!

  4. The power of non-judgement can be transformative. I am continually impressed by my classmates experiences. This, Erin, would be a great example of an impressive experience. This young man had the opportunity to be judged by all in the group for revealing this information, but you were able to help facilitate a inclusive environment where, “everyone’s story is ok”. It’s a great reminder that we as teachers need to strive to create this atmosphere and also not judge someone’s stories. Thank you for sharing lady. #powerfultransformation

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