Friday, December 18, 2015

Why are Stories Important?

The Construction of Adolescence--
Nakkula and Toshalis

“We do not construct our life stories on our own.  We are, rather, in a constant state of co-creating who we are with the people with whom we are in closest connection and within those contexts that hold the most meaning for our day to day existence.”

Through this text, the authors demonstrate how important context is in your everyday life, and of course your professional life as well. Everybody has a story, and everyone has unconscious preconceived notions when judging others. The truth is that you can't judge a book by its cover. Human are complex and many forces have shaped their current state of being.

This is especially significant when working with youth, as this is the most vulnerable time of a persons life in regards to shaping views and beliefs. Youth rely on their experiences, and through this method they test the world around them. Professionals in this field that don't take the time to understand the personal stories of youth will be not make an effective impact in their work. Assuming things about youth is not acceptable. Reaching a certain level of understanding will generate trust and respect in your relationships with youth. This is an absolutely essential piece that many skip over. You cannot just treat symptoms, you must understand the causes and forces of the resulting present state of the child. Avoiding the acknowledgement of youth with difficult stories is an unconsciously devastating action. As you will reinforce the resistance between yourself, others like you, and youth. The self-fulling prophecy echoes from many youth settings, especially loud in public education systems. The hidden curriculum, the school to prison pipeline have become the status quo. Color, sex, class, and gender blindness needs to be replaced with cultural competence and appreciation. Obedience and repetition of facts, needs to replaced with critical thinking.

While youth try to make sense of who they are and what their possible future looks like, our interactions with youth absolutely coauthor these ideas whether we do it consciously or not. The authors argue that the the distance between educators and youth is perpetuated by the high demands and structure of a school environment. Does this help the situation? Absolutely not. Is it a rational excuse for why you cannot understand the stories of youth in your classroom? No, professionals need to be held accountable, there is no excuse, it is a nonnegotiable part of your job.

Many have coauthored my story: (the most obvious and immediate) mother, father, sister, cousins, grandfather, grandmother, and friends. But also teachers, journalists, philosophers, scientists, musicians, coworkers, police, authority figures, even strangers and homeless people, and probably many more that I am unaware of still. 

Most interesting though was growing up with my grandmother. I should probably preface this with the fact that I wasn't the most impressionable child, When I was really young, I seemed to already have this deeply rooted sense of self and the world. Of course that is ever- evolving and massive shifts have taken place. But, growing up I was the kid who always got in trouble, breaking rules on purpose. My grandmother and I never ever got along. I spent many days at her house while my mother was at work. I'll admit, there's a 9/10 chance that I was probably guilty in the first degree for whatever she was accusing me of --BUT I swear it absolutely delighted her to watch me live out my punishment. I felt that power dynamic, and constantly tried to set it off balance. The more she disciplined me, the harder I fought back. It was clear in my mind early on that this was an enemy not an ally. There was no respect or trust between us. She would praise my younger sister for her obedience and good grades, and used her light to make my shadow seem darker. She would tell me I was a troublemaker and that God wouldn't let me go to heaven and that I was going to lead an unsuccessful life of misery. Though she persisted in trying, she could not instill fear in me, I didn't feel obligated to adhere to her personal criteria or religious standards.

While I did walk some dark paths as a teenager, luckily she was wrong. I have disproved almost every threatening prediction she pushed on me. And success is the best revenge.

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