Assignment 1

Lauren Sele
University of Calgary

I attended a school for the Gifted. Thank you, bell hooks. I too see the implicit posturing of capital
letters, the writer’s deliberate relegation of something into importance. And yes, I was important enough to
warrant an uppercase label. I was chosen. It was a long time before I chose something else. Being labelled,
whether it is with an undecipherable diagnosis written on a small, childproof jar that stays hidden in the
bathroom cabinet or the sort flown like a parachute in times of self-doubt, means corresponding expectations.
It means living up to something as much as having to fit beneath it. It means, for a girl with a whole host of
prime real estate label-wise (athlete, writer, potential OCD haver), I grabbed onto the brightest one I could
find. Gifted. What a terrible opening to my essay. I am stumbling too far into the self-indulgent, into the unacademic and a passing grade seems a passing thing. But remember, I am smart, (hello, I am Gifted!) and so
please stay with me. There is a point to this. Stories take a while to get going. Far from the need to reach a
certain word limit, this essay requires a descending in to that mimics a large-bellied man stepping carefully into
a hot-tub. It takes time, precision, and sometimes a margarita in one hand. Well, I am that man, sans boozy
bravery. And so it begins.
****
My vision of myself as a teacher is incomplete without an oversized pair of cat glasses. I also cannot
remove this happy, bespectacled self from the context of story. I see ‘good’ teaching as inseparable from the
practice of storytelling and I see it also as a process that simultaneously celebrates individuality while insisting
upon the holistic connection between people, places, and the communities created. I am currently being primed
as a secondary English teacher so my attachment to storytelling seems an appealing, natural fit. I see though the
room for story in more rigid disciplines like math. There is story there too and it goes beyond drawing little
shirts and shoes on numbers and seeing how they add up. It is about how we see the world and, subsequently
and of direct consequence, how we teach. Freire in Pedagogy of the Oppressed writes that teachers suffering
from narration sickness talk “about reality as if it were motionless, static, compartmentalized, and predictable”
(Freire 1993). There is nothing then beyond the page. No rootedness, no connection to the self-same world
outside the classroom. Nothing to get excited about. The task of the narratively sick teacher is therefore to fill
up the innate emptiness of students. The banking model of education (Freire 1993) negates any kind of

connection, any attempt at meaningful engagement and dismisses any of the other buzzwords along the same
lines. The most notable quality of narrative education “is the sonority of words, not their transforming power”
(Freire 1993). It is egotistical, sink or swim. A younger version of myself struggled with is. I became so
concerned with properly spitting back the words filling me up that I became too afraid to try. My Gifts, as I
entered high school awash in hormones and possessing an embarrassingly large collection of tear-away track
pants, let me down. I will not teach to enjoy my own voice. I will hopefully also maintain enough vigilance to
catch students not quite able to see through me. Teaching, I think, goes beyond the transmission of required
information. It in no way mirrors a financial transaction, but is something of an exchange.
Story saved me as a student. As a teacher-to-be I have been warned of the perils of trying to ‘save’
students, but this is not the same thing. The task of saving via story does not fall to me; it falls to the students
themselves, to all of us and each other. Storytelling in education is about making room for all voices and
perspectives and, in creating this space, simultaneously valuing those individuals from within a collective. It is
about planting curriculum in a lived world, about ensuring it’s rootedness and making certain students
understand that they too figure into it. Stories connect us and teaching to this, teaching with a sense of purpose
beyond achievement scores and provincial testing, restores not only the innate, intimate value of the knowledge
we are sharing, but reminds students that their contribution’s warrant far more consideration that can be
contained in a letter grade or percent value. And that Gifted need not be capitalized. This was my lesson. This
charge, as teachers, is not easy. We are living in a time when our stories take a rather disconcerting truth, when
the reality or truthfulness can appear better left undisturbed. The task then is to teach well in these moments,
not to waver, and to face the inevitability not with denial or saccharine assurances, but with story. Seidel in the
article “A Curriculum for Miracles” poses the question, “what teacher voice is possible in a post-Chernobyl
world” (Seidel 2012). Yes, this question is rhetorical, but it also demands an honest answer. And it is the kind
answer that will stand and tell that story because it is all of ours, shared. Friesen et al. write that “a path that
remembers and in the remembering, renews” (Friesen et al 2011).

We remember who we are through

storytelling. We are renewed through our implicit connections. I remembered who I was through storytelling.
We all deserve to live full lives outside the classroom and these need not be separate worlds. My English 30

teacher read my paper out loud to the class and then privately, with total kindness and eagerness to help, told me
how to make it better. I saw myself then as happily imperfect, but still worthy of being there, being in that
moment. It was not about making the grade (I’m pretty sure I got an A), but re-teaching me my loveliness
(Kinnell 2014). It was about re-orientating myself to myself and assuring that un-capitalized self I had more to
say. Lots more.
****
These are lovely thoughts, but I can hear the critics.

Storytelling? The ‘answer’? No. Not actually an

answer, but a summoning. In the mirror I see the large man hesitate as his knees begin to wobble and his
margarita twitch. Keep going. I did. The most difficult things to express must be done by way of metaphor.
The rigidity of language ensures this. Hang on. Dip down deeper. Storytelling in the classroom re-colors
correctness with authenticity. The things worth teaching would not deserve our interest if they themselves did
not have something to teach us (Gadamer qtd in Jardine in press) and their authenticity resonates with this, our
collective interest.
****
Again. We remember who we are through storytelling. I remembered who I was. What began as my
English teacher suggesting I put more of ME (not my Gift) between the words snowballed into professors who
openly laughed at their attempts at poetry, who talked about the stabilizing pills that drained their creativity, and
who fuelled my own awakening to the elasticity and hidden sponginess of language. Story. What
westernwhitefemalestraightmiddleclassable means. And what it could mean. It is about situated-ness. Finding
myself in a place. And it was, as I dig back through ten years of accumulated university knowledge, such a rich
place of learning. I still remember. Jardine writes that “a teacher who remembers well teaches curriculum as a
story, not just a collection of trivia which seems to have no connection with anything but itself and which must
be remembered in an unhealthy way, that is, crammed, to pass an exam (Jardine 2012). This reads like the
philosophy of logic. We are a part of the living world, curriculum comes from the living world, and therefore
we come from the self-same. We need to remember this. That nothing exists without connection regardless of
whether or not we see it. There are few things innately ‘incorrect’, it only becomes a question context. Not all

things are okay, but all profess a story we decide is worthy telling or not. Curriculum, the words, concepts, and
ideas I am required teach, need a constant renewal, a loveliness re-teaching. Just as I did/do. And this is how I
see myself a teacher. As a storyteller. As a lover of stories and hopefully, hopefully, a witness to many.

****
When I first read The Learn’d Astronomer by Walt Whitman I laughed out loud. I am him. In
retrospect, this might have been a better transposition of self than a speedo’d man now happily bubbling away.
Losing oneself in the magic and mystery of something is a different sort displacement than becoming lost in
facts in figures. One means becoming found. The other fights it. And so story finds me at the end of this. And
yes, “all my stories are true. Some happened and some did not, but they are all true” (Loy 2010). Churning up
some kind of truth is not the point of story. There are no absolutes, no singular reference point to weigh all our
thoughts against. There are turtles all the way down (King 2003 ). Turtles, and I imagine therefore also soup.

References
Freire, P. (1993). Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York, NY: Continuum Books.
Friesen, S., Jardine, D., & Gladstone, B. (2011). The First Thunderclap of Spring: an Invitation into Aboriginal
Ways of Knowing and the Creative Possibilities of Digital Technologies. in Craig, C.J., & Deretchin,
L.F. (ED.) Cultivating Curious and Creative Minds: The Role of Teachers and Teacher Educators: Part
II Teacher Education Yearbook XIX. Lanham, Maryland: Rowan & Littlefield Education.
Jardine, D. (2012). A Pedagogy Left in Peace. New York, NY: Deanta Global Publishing Services.
Jardine, D., McCaffrey, G., & Gilham, C. (in press). On the Pedagogy of Suffering: Hermeneutic and Buddhist
Meditations. New York: Peter Lang Publishers.
Kinnell, G. (2014). Saint Francis and the Sow. Retrieved from http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/171395
King, T. (2003). The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative. Toronto, ON: Dead Dog Café Publications and
the Canadian Broadcast Corporation.
Loy, D. R. (2010). The World is Made of Stories. Somerville, MA: Wisdom Publications.
Seidel, J. (2012). A Heart of Wisdom. A Curriculum for Miracles. New York, NY: Peter
Lang.
Whitman, W. (2014). When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer. Leaves of Grass. Retrieved from
http://www.bartleby.com/142/180.html