As a creative writing major, stories are my life. I cannot help but notice stories around me, wonder why people do what they do, or what is happening in their lives at just that moment. As a university English teacher, I encourage my students to look for the stories, and to look outside of their own current reality. The thoughts, the emotions we experience each day are what every human being does—and yet, our perceptions are usually all about ourselves.
We are feeling our stress, frustration, sadness, happiness, peace, and hope. We tend to forget that the stranger next to us is doing the same thing.
Author George Bernard Shaw said, “Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” Each day, we create our story—it’s our job to determine how the story will go as we are given new characters and new situations every day.
Moving Past the Madness
But how to get college freshmen students, some just barely out of high school, to realize this? To remember what we teach them, beyond the tests and the papers and the endless homework?
Feelings, says one article on edutopia.org. Feelings that make them relate the things they learn to something they already know—such as stories.
“What the human brain loves most of all is story,” the article says, “—logic and emotion tied together to bring meaning to a set of ideas. That’s why students don’t need flashcards to remember the plot of their favorite movie or every detail of their most embarrassing gym class moment. Too often, students treat subjects such as history as a never-ending onslaught of unrelated facts that happened to people in pantaloons or togas—people who are nothing like them. If you can take the facts that you’re teaching and relate them in an emotional way to what your students already understand, you’ll make the material more memorable than ever before.”
I love teaching. The grading of a million papers and the endless questions of what were already on the syllabus—well, those aren’t as enjoyable. But seeing the students putting things together, the recognition in their eyes as something makes sense—the excitement they exhibit when I ask them about their story—those are the things that keep me coming back. They are what help me in me experience my own story.