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Why Do We Tell Each Other Stories?

Authored By: 
Michelle Koza, English Teacher

We all have stories. Sometimes we think that our stories are not valuable or interesting, but if our inaugural Chirp Café last week taught us anything, it’s that this just isn’t the case. The room was packed to the rafters with spectators who were there to listen to students tell their personal stories of transition and change.

I started Chirp Café as a venue for students to share their stories. At first, I was afraid it would flop. What teenager would be brave enough to get in front of a crowd of their peers and share their feelings? It seemed a non-starter. But how wrong I was! The kids loved it.

Our students come from all over the country and the world, and it’s a culture shock when they get here. I experienced it myself. As an American born and raised abroad, it took some adjusting when I finally decided to make the United States my permanent residence. So I shared my story. I didn’t fit in as a high school kid, and continued to struggle when I went to college. But at the same time, my university education gave me something I don’t think I would have found if I had stayed in my native Brazil. Our South American students identified. One girl even hugged me at the end of my story and said how she had experienced the same personal awakening after leaving a misogynistic culture behind.

Kids talked not just about their transitions, but also about difficult moments in their lives in touching and also hilarious ways. They talked about the pain of leaving their friends behind, and their difficulty adjusting to a different educational culture. (I guess we give a lot of homework here at Beekman, which drew some laughs from the audience.) But most of all, I was struck by how moved our students were. They saw themselves in the stories of other students. Though all of our presenters had shared and practiced their stories with me beforehand, during the event one student asked if she could go up and tell her story. I thought, why not? It worked last year at graduation; maybe it’ll work here. So I said yes. What happened next was magical. This girl had never fit in. She felt like a recluse, a reject, and worse. But at Beekman, she found more than acceptance. She found a community that embraced her and celebrated her strengths.

When we tell each other stories, we know the details may be different, but the core is universal. We learn that we actually share in a grand human experience.

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