From Chimamanda Adichie: The danger of a single story
“It is impossible to talk about the single story without talking about power.”
“Power is the ability not just to tell the story of another person, but to make it the definitive story of that person.”
How do we celebrate the strengths and contributions of each individual? How do we show that we are not a single story, but a collection of stories that create the anthology of who we are now? How do we convey that the story is not complete, that it is a work in progress? That there are many choices and crossroads ahead? That we have control of the choices and pace?
Our Faculty Assessment and Annual Review (FAAR) plan offers us the opportunity to collect informing feedback from different points of view. This is an opportunity to have our work, leading, and learning represented by multiple perspectives. It decreases the danger of a single story.
I, the assessed, have the opportunity to garner feedback from my peers, my students, my “managers,” and myself. I have the responsibility and the opportunity to process and summarize this data for myself and share with my team of critical friends and my admin. I am challenged and empowered to ask questions about my work, thinking, and learning. I am offered opportunities to calibrate my understanding and view of my work with others who witness and experience it. I contribute to my story as do my students, my colleagues, and other community members.
I wonder how we can translate this into a formative assessment plan for our young learners. Where do they have a voice in the assessment of their learning and growth? Do we offer opportunities to reflect and revise?…to problem-find and problem-solve? Do I offer my learners the opportunity to have a voice in their feedback and assessment? Do I offer choice in their assessment? Having my voice and choice represented is a critically important component of my professional learning plan. If it is good and important for me, wouldn’t it be good and important for my learners?
Chimamanda Adichie concludes her talk with:
“I would like to end with this thought: That when we reject the single story, when we realize that there is never a single story about any place, we regain a kind of paradise.”
We strive for learners to have multiple representations of ideas and concepts. Do we also help ourselves and others have multiple representations of who we are and can become?
I agree that we need multiple representation. What about students? Why do we use one piece of information, such as tests, to gauge students understanding? Quizzes and projects and all are there, sure, but the weight is clearly on the memorize and regurgitate methods–tests or exams. Why is this? Can’t they all be equal? Are all representations created equal or do certain opinions carry different weights?
GREAT questions, Tara! I am asking the same questions.
As you know, Bo Adams and I are practicing with this idea in Synergy. We use blogging to have our Synergy 8 teammates reflect on their learning. We ask them to celebrate their bright spots and strengths. We also ask them to reflect on their struggles and consider constructing their teams where strengths are complimentary rather than identical. Our assessment plan hinges on our students initiating a dialogue with the adults surrounding their learning experience. We seek a multi-way conversation with the learner, parents, teachers, and advisors.
You would know, better than most. about having other representations of your learning. You have the experience – an experience I have not had – of being assessed not based on tests. Do you want choice? Would you like to have the opportunity to be assessed by a project or demonstration rather than a traditional test? Should you have both tests and projects?
I posted Chimamanda’s single story video on my blog last year and it still resonates with me. It is way too easy to tell one story in education. I strive to have the multiple stories in my building be front and centre, and not just within a cultural context, but a socio-economic and a familial one as well. The middle- and upper-class stories also dominate, as are the “happy family” stories. Teachers can sometimes forget, as can administrators, that kids often behave in ways we see as challenging our authority, but when we hear their stories of poverty or history of abuse, it changes our lens through which we see them.
Thank you for sharing this post.
I agree with you, Erin. My first post on Chimamanda’s single story video, Multiple Representations – A Different Kind of Paradise, had me thinking about how students carry their label year after year. It is very difficult to lose the “reputation” you have as a student if you are labeled an underachiever, LD, or ADHD. We should seek multiple representations of learning, growth, and development.
In this post, I was thinking more about the opportunity afforded me by our FAAR formative assessment plan. I have the opportunity to collect and review multiple representations of my teaching. My admin team has the opportunity to view feedback on my teaching from my peers, my students, and my reflections. I am not represented by a single story developed by one or two admin visits.
Thank you for reminding us that our relationships create another critical facet of our stories. Listen, learn, and connect.