Talking to my students brings so much insight to my life. They’re always so inquisitive and curious about what brought me to their school and how my life has turned out.
This last week, I had them writing mini-memoirs. As is to be expected many students just looked at me and were like, “We don’t have anything to tell”. Which is obviously untrue.
So I dug into my experiences to give them ideas. I told them about the video tape my dad made of my two older sisters waiting for me to be born. My mother was in the bedroom with the midwife and they were in the other room. There was a whiteboard on the wall with a few names scribbled on it in Arabic. One of those names was خلود Khuloud. And even though they were still deciding on what my name would be, they kept calling me by the name they eventually gave me. I like to believe that that was when my family started our tradition of all of us having a hand in deciding the name for the next baby.
Or like the time I almost drowned when I jumped into the deep end of the swimming pool as a little kid. Or feeling like I was drowning when we were at the beach in Malaysia and my father kept throwing me into the salty ocean and scooping me back up again while everyone laughed and enjoyed the warmth and beauty of the day.
Or the time when I was hit by a motorcycle as my sister, our friend and I were crossing the road heading home. I remember coming to this road, looking both ways and noticing a lone motorcycle in the distance. It was a warm and sunny day and our friend had her bike with her. We decided it was safe to cross. And this is when everything gets hazy. I don’t know if I tripped and fell or if the motorcycle just hit me and then I fell. All I knew was that my face was smashed into the hard concrete and gravel ground. I was crying and the motorcycle was on top of me and then it was gone. I don’t remember hurting- my body was numb. My sister and friend lifted me up onto the bike and each grabbed one side of the handlebars, keeping me balanced between them as they ran to our house. I remember not being able to see infront of me. The tears made everything blurry. For some reason that is beyond my comprehension, I felt bad that they were pushing me and so I tried to use the peddle to help. I think my sister yelled at me to stop.
In no time at all, we were home and I was lying on the floor of the living room. I think my mother decided to change my clothes, but I can’t be too sure. I swear I was above my body watching everything happen in a blur. Everyone was screaming but they were all muffled. My sister was telling them what happened. I don’t remember where our friend went. My father lifted me and put me in the back seat of the car and raced me to the hospital.
I don’t think I broke anything, I was badly bruised and needed stitches and a cast on my leg. I don’t know how long it took for me to heal. The last thing I remember is being in the car going to the hospital. Everything after is a black void in my memory. I could easily have misremembered the details, I was only five or so years old.
How did we get off topic? The point was to get my students to write about themselves. The point wasn’t so that I could captivate them with my own stories. But sometimes it is important to go somewhat off topic. To make yourself human in front of your students. To captivate them with your stories. I like to believe my honesty and opennes helps them trust me and open up to me.
It’s difficult to ask students who lead rough lives to share their stories with us. They often don’t want to share their truths even if I’m the only one reading it. I believe building a relationship of trust and honesty helps make it easier.
Reliving my experiences helps me appreciate the life I’ve lead and who I have become because of my unique encounters. It also reminds me that my students are currently experiencing encounters and events that will forever shape who they will become. And I pray everyday that the time they spend with me are timrs that have a lasting and positive effect on who they grow up to become.