What struck me most about Grace’s storytelling today at the university sponsored festival, and in front of about 200 other people in her session alone, was that she offers surprise. It’s not surprising that she’s surprising, but it feels surprising when she’s offering surprises to her own father. This isn’t to say that there aren’t things that we tuck away to ourselves, or that I didn’t think she had this capacity, it’s just that when she re-invents herself in front of me I get to watch the emergence of that other self. Trying on a new identity is risky and exciting, and to see it take place in such a public way is moving.
It made me realize this: If my own kid can re-invent herself and surprise her parent, then what right do we teachers have to presume we really know what kids are all about? We identify the troublemaker and the math nerd and the thespian, and teachers will often even go so far as to characterize an entire grade. “That’s a tough class.” But what do we really know? I know that the quiet kid with glasses can transform herself on a stage in the blink of an eye, even if I’m not ready for it. I should be so ready for anyone else’s potential as well.