This was my classroom for the first few days of this week. A beautiful area just south of metropolitan Sydney, it was the location of our Year 11 retreat. This experience allows students and a handful of staff to reflect on their achievements, their identity, their values and their goals as they move into their final year of school. It was a deeply moving experience for me as it confirmed my appreciation to work with such responsive and thoughtful young women.

At one point on the second night, just before lights out, I wandered over to two students who I don’t speak to as much as I’d like on a daily basis. They looked up, and one paused in a moment of thought to ask: “Sir, what’s your story?”

The emphasis on ‘story’ naturally led to a 20 minute conversation about my life (an edited version of course) before arriving at my school. They shared some of their story and I shared some of mine.

The importance of having a story, a narrative, an account of experiences, is central to a historical understanding of our world. It informs who we are, how we react to new situations, how we approach others, how we work and live and love. An understanding of our own story is essential when we want to reflect and grow.

Yesterday at TeachMeet Unconference at the University of New England’s FutureCampus in Parramatta, the common theme to arise from the variety of presentations, workshops and chats was, for me, the idea of sharing stories. We share stories to support each other, to inspire each other, to challenge each other. Stories can add layers to one another or they can undermine each other. Stories from one person can fly in the face of a story just told or one yet to be told. Some stories have evidence to support a theory, some do not. Some stories are deeply personal and cannot be easily replicated. Some stories offer us lessons no matter what our context.

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@stringer_andrea leads a discussion on Socratic circles in primary

As always, when educators come together and are given a chance to share their stories, something bordering on magic occurs. I’m sure it’s to do with endorphins. Something within us lights up and we change. We evolve. We become more than we were before.

This is why it is essential for people to develop a network of people and ideas  (sometimes called a Professional or Personal Learning Network – PLN). We become better as a result of smashing our minds together and seeing what happens. I firmly believe that job interviews in many sectors will include a question relating to how connected we are as much as what experiences we have. Our stories are given new life when we have conduits through which to share them.

I was inspired by the conversation I had with my students on retreat. I felt a new sense of identity and belonging to my school community and the wonderful people within it. I was similarly inspired by connecting with educators yesterday at #tmuc14. Both requires the telling of stories. Both required a deeply human connection of minds. Both are essential to my growth as a person and as a teacher.

So, what’s your story?

For a Storify of the #tmuc14 experience, please click HERE.