The Connection Between Optimism and the Stories We Tell

I was listening to a Ted Radio Hour podcast titled The Case for Optimism where 5 different speakers share their perspective on optimism. Side note, if you haven’t tried listening to the Ted Radio Hour before, I highly recommend it especially for those of you who have shorter bursts of time to listen to podcasts. They will highlight a TedTalk for about 10 minutes and if you listen to the whole hour, you will get different perspectives on the same topic. But back to The Case for Optimism, I was listening to an excerpt from Mia Birdsong’s TedTalk The Story We Tell About Poverty Isn’t True, and I loved the connection she was making between optimism and the stories we tell.

She explains why the story we tell about poverty is wrong, and she pushes the thinking on this. “For every story I hear demonizing low-income, single mothers or absentee fathers, which is how people might think of my parents. I’ve got 50 that tell a different story about the same people showing up every day and doing their best. What if we recognized that what’s working is the people and what’s broken is our approach?”

As she talked about how optimism is a form of resistance, she went on to move the audience to “Consider this an invitation to rethink a flawed strategy. Let’s grasp this opportunity to let go of a tired, faulty narrative and listen and look for true stories, more beautifully complex stories about who marginalized people and families and communities are.”

We need to be aware of the narratives we tell and more importantly who they are serving. Listen to Mia Birdsong and think about the narrative you have about your students of poverty. What stories do you need to start looking for? Imagine how different our schools would be if these were the stories that were told!

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