Living in Stories
Stories are windows into the soul. They are hidden treasures that are buried beneath a sea of hopes, wishes, dreams. They are small moments in time that pass you by. They are memories that enrapture your heart and wrap around your spirit. They are the hidden paths to who you were, who you are, and what you are destined to become. You are a collection of invisible stories strung together and concealed by your external being. Stories bind us to people. They are entry points to connection and open pathways to your learning journey. They shape your core identity; they are a reflection of your perception, values and what you stand for. Stories are windows into our experiences. They are the ammunition that pushes you down the path to self-discovery. Your stories are living in mind memory boxes waiting to be courageously unwrapped and gifted to people who will use them to discover ideas and recognize their own passions.
As I have navigated over four decades of living including seventeen years in education I have lived the stories that have propelled me to be the leader I am becoming. I was born into a family of educators. My grandfather, my parents, my sister, and I all have stories to tell. Although each story is unique and special, mine is a little different as I am the first person in my family to have stepped into a formal leadership role. Along with my family, there have been people who have paved a path to my development and growth as a human being, educator, and leader. Some walked into my life for minutes, some for hours, some for days, and some for years. Some are more present than others, some have come and go, while others have remained by my side. Those people have likely seen me through the big and small wins, helped me navigate the obstacles I have faced, and have valued me for the person I am, not for the title I have served in. All of these people are important because they have shown me who I want and don’t want to be. For that, I am truly grateful.
Stories Are Fuel
In an #InnovatorsMindset podcast, George Couros brilliantly says “Stories are the fuel for innovation, they inspire us, they give us pertinent ideas, they get the work we are doing out to people in a really compelling way that goes beyond what a score could tell people about our students.” Beneath the facade of every human being lies personal, unique collections of stories that reveal reflections of who they are and who they want to be. Where are you creating spaces for educators to share how they found their path to education and leadership through stories?
We all have a story that captures how we journeyed to the path to leadership. Recently, I was asked to join a group of women to speak about my story that led me to leadership at an educational event. As I stood in the center of a wall to wall crowded room of influential women, my eyes scanned and surveyed it. As upbeat music played to greet the participants who chose to share the learning space with my colleagues and me, my mind wandered into a state of reflection. How did I get here? Who helped me see my potential and why didn’t others? Have I become a person of influence? Am I supposed to be here? One by one, ten women I admire and adore shared their stories with others, their path to leadership through vulnerability and grace. I noticed that they all had something in common. They gave recognition to others for the person they are continually becoming. That’s because leadership is not a business of “I”, it’s a business of “we”. When it was my turn to speak, I shared, “Getting to the place I am now did not come easily. It took some pretty amazing people to recognize my strengths and pick me up during the times when I had fallen down. There have been many remarkable moments in my career, but there have also been some disappointments. You see, we need those moments too. They support your personal evolution, your path to transformation. They help you see that happiness doesn’t just exist in where we are, it lives in what we have to do to get there.” So I ask, Where are you now and where do you want to be? In the book Atomic Habits by James Clear, he says, ‘Your life bends in the direction of your habits. Every action you take is a vote for the person you want to become.’ When I reflect on my past and present experiences, I often ask myself, “Who is the leader you wish to become Lauren?” My answer is “I wish to become the leader I always needed.” No matter where your journey takes you, your actions create a collection of stories that can positively impact others.
Stories are lenses that formulate perspectives and cultivate community. They are sound bites, and short episodes of our lives. They are opportunities to personalize classroom experiences, make connections to new learning, and a bridge that connects us with people to form new ideas. In chapter 3 of the book Personal and Authentic, Thomas C. Murray passionately wrote, “Weaving together our experiences creates our story, makes us who we are, and determines the context in which we each learn.” Understanding and sharing our own stories and the stories within our school organizations forges deeper connections that lead to deeper learning. Understanding stories values the uniqueness of each individual and brings purpose to authentic work. As we proceed with our lives, we will encounter new opportunities and people who are waiting to meet us. It can be exciting to think about a team of people we have not yet met, but will eventually become a constant in our lives. Although every person has guided my direction, I have realized that we all have the divine power to choose our own paths, our ultimate destination. We can take our experiences, our stories, our lessons learned to bring our hopes and dreams to fruition. What will you do to intentionally shape the narratives you want to create and write the stories you want to be a part of?