I was brought back to a happy memory. This is the memory of my first year of being a teacher in a so-called ‘land of opportunity’, a city where you might tempt to think that possibilities are always within your grasp. Arriving as a stranger in the city, I came with that later conviction. But, touching the ground is always a different experience from what you presumably imagine when you are still far away, while still lying comfortably in your bed. So, like any other newcomers in this formidable city, touching reality of this city instantly required me to make certain adjustments.
Honestly, I never imagined myself standing in front of a class and teaching school kids. Despite the fact that teaching had been always fascinating and preoccupied me, the thought of making it a profession never landed in my head. But, what you don’t expect in life very often unfolds itself and presents you with its element of surprise.
And I finally landed my feet on that school compound. I was terrified a little bit when thinking about my chance of surviving this first job. As a new person in the business, I didn’t come up with any specific plan. I rather thought that this was going to be a bold adventure, carried out by a novice who was not that familiar with the terrain that he was walking into. Obviously, he was too embarrassed to say ‘no’ to that challenge, but at the same time his impassioned love for adventure made him ready to take any risk of being defeated in this very first try.
A real adventurer often realizes that road is not always there. He knows that inbuilt roads are sometimes rare. That’s why he also knows that the journey itself often presses him to make his own path, find his way and reach his destination. It was the consoling thought I had when I realized that I didn’t have any roadmap to guide me through. I had a set of instructions and guidelines available. But they were external tools which wouldn’t guarantee the success at the end of the day. All teachers know too well that to survive their teaching career they need something more than a pile of papers and books. Whatever you call it, that ‘something’ might be deservedly called ‘plan’.
I ended up devising my own plan. This plan didn’t come in its grandeur. It was even simple and ubiquitous: telling story. In all likelihood, I thought to myself, story would be one of the universals that could instantly appeal to any rational human being. It could become a tool to bridge gap between humans from different backgrounds. No matter wherever you were born, in a city or backwater alike, story might interest you and bind you with the rest of humanity. Above all else, story is a powerful educational tool since it possesses the power to spark imagination and curiosity. And that’s what good teachers do: spark those mind faculties and spread inspirations!
As predicted, those young minds well responded to stories. Sometimes, I told them stories I retrieved online and after adding my bits and twists I packaged those stories anew and presented them as vividly as possible. Sometimes, I made up completely new stories and performed my storytelling act as if it was the most important job in the world. And, to my wonder, these kids always asked for the continuation of my unfinished story the next day. I never declined to continue, even if they had to constantly remind me of the ending of the story I told them the other day.
Since that experience, I often contemplate on the power of story. I still find that the power of story never ceases to fascinate the world. I think that’s the very reason why we go to cinemas or watch movies at home: we have that indelible penchant for good story.
As I now have this habit of listening to radio programs from BBC (Outlook, Witness, History Hour, etc.), I increasingly realize the power of story. Story is not primarily about shared facts or information. Storytelling is an art of making sense of this world by using such a compelling and inspiring way. You could tell kids the story of how your football team wins a game and it could sound informative and generally okay. But when that story merely revolves around statistics, it might not work its charm. However, if you tell that story from the perspective of a certain hardline fans who might incite violence if his team loses that game, the story might sound different. More probably, the later version might not be circumscribed within the sole domain of the game per se, but it could also trigger a further discussion on the ethics of being spectators or the potential danger of fanaticism. And you never know, the same story could serve as a good entry point to the discussion over rampant religious fanaticism across the globe.
Few months ago, a good friend of mine told me that those kids who used to listen to my stories, who are already in their teens, still remember some stories. I do not know whether those stories have played any role in their lives. But, one thing for sure, certain stories have played crucial role in our own respective lives. Those stories might not change us to the better version of ourselves. But, I always believe that those good stories provide us with retrievable inspirations that could lighten us in our darkest nights and console us in our saddest days.
And if our main story these days inflict upon us certain pain or embarrassment, we may well remember that the same story will be possibly retold in different Zeitgeist with different accent and perhaps a bold stroke of gratitude in this immediate future. This story is undoubtedly open to the undefined and unformed future. We may want this story to suddenly vanish and the rest of us end up being completely oblivious of its ugly presence. However, this story, – in its all ugliness and maleficence – provides us with the possibility of enlightening our path onwards. We know all too well, certain story is miraculously destined to mend our ways, heal our wounds and lead us to our own path of redemption. Even if the journey after this troubling story might be bumpy and uphill, we should remember that this story has generously bestowed upon us perpetual and retrievable inspiration, that could be proved useful in this valley of tears.
I have this bold conviction. I do hope that you simply share the same fire.