Martha Swindler – TEDx Talk TRANSCRIPT
I love stories. I love hearing stories, I love telling stories, I love reading stories; stories like “To kill a mockingbird” with Atticus Finch, who in 1932 asked his children to really get to know people, that they had to walk in their shoes and climb in their skin.
C.S. Lewis once said, “We read to know we are not alone.”
Hi, I’m Martha Swindler, and I’ve been teaching English Language Arts here at Barnstable High School for over 20 years.
Often, people have said, “How is it that you connect with your students?” For the first part of my career, the answer was easy: I teach English. Literature lends itself to the human connection and with journal questions, and discussion questions, it was easy to connect, because I often say to my students that I would never ask them to share something that I am not willing to share myself.
So I tell them my stories.
But the question becomes how do you teach them to connect with each other outside the classroom?
About 12 years ago, my life changed again. Challenge Day came to Barnstable High School, and they still come every year, and luckily, our freshmen for the past five years it’s been a freshmen workshop, so all of the students in our building can say they have been invited to Challenge Day.
These cool, hip, California facilitators come and create a safe environment where teachers and students become real. The day culminates with a small group, your family. In that family, everyone is given two minutes to share who they really are, and the small family listens.
If that listening is active, and if they are in the moment, then you have walked in their shoes, and you have climbed in their skin. Two minutes is all it takes of listening.
Listening is a ripple, it’s often overlooked because it appears to be too passive, but listening, especially to the youth, empowers them. They become more resilient, and in turn, they listen to others, and the ripple goes on and on.
When I was young, I am amazed to tell you that my father met Archbishop Desmond Tutu in 1976. They were at a global convention of the Anglican Church. My father is now a retired Episcopal bishop, and as you may likely know, Desmond Tutu is the first Black Archbishop of Cape Town, and the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize winner.