Once upon a time (this week) in a land where colorful houses dominate the landscape and the salty air smells like fresh seafood and bread baking in the oven (Charleston), a group of people (art educators) gathered to learn, play, plan and prepare (position statements) for the future. At first, some of us were a little intimidated by the list of those presenting. Then something incredible happened. Each speaker began to share their story. Soon we learned that these optimistic and brilliant people are not only transparent human beings but also very approachable. So, everyone forgot about the perceived intellectual intimidation and we all just decided to have a good old time and we ended up learning and growing. The moral of this story is, everyone has a story that always needs to be listened to and sometimes needs to be shared.
Everyone has a Story
On the first day of the conference, we heard a keynote by artist Derek Fordjour. While showing slides of his powerful work, this vibrant, articulate and Harvard scholar shared a story of his journey from his Central High School Art days in Memphis (that’s MY city!) under the leadership and impact of art educator/mentor Bill Hicks (who he still calls on Father’s Day) to the classrooms of Harvard and galleries of New York. He brought tears not only to my eyes but to many of the teachers sitting around me as he shared the story of how Bill Hicks changed his life.
The next day we heard from art educator and lecturer, Dr. Patty Bode, as she shared how her journey through a mentor/teacher shaped the course of her life study in Equality, Diversity and Inclusion. But she also shared how her journey was also shaped through her time as a middle school art teacher and her work with at risk juveniles.
On our final day we heard several stories by Master Storyteller, Tim Lowry. Not only did he reach us as educators through a powerful and touching story of his encounter with a student when he served as a language arts teacher, but he was also able to show us how to use the art of storytelling as an advocacy tool as well as an instrument to engage students in the classroom.
To Be Continued..
But the storytelling wasn’t confined to those sessions. Throughout the day and even at small group gatherings for lunch, dinner, shopping or museum hopping, we were telling our stories to one another as we bonded with new and old friends; stories of family trips, student antics, classroom chaos and..well..just the journey of life. We also began the process of creating new stories from new memories (like a visit to the Art-O-Mat) from a few days in Charleston together in the summer of 2018. A trip that we will not soon forget. I’ll tell you more about it sometime, if you are willing to listen.