This Saturday I will be a part of the TedX speaking series at Bentley University. When I think of legacy, I immediately think of the pivotal moments in my life where someone said something to me that caused a mental shift to take place. The rigor of life often makes it difficult for one to stop and re-visit important times of growth, but this presentation has allowed me to be still.
Preparing for this day has been eye-opening. I have had the pleasure of revisiting moments of my formative years where I had moments of discovery which helped me to find my “Voice.” In these moments, I found opportunities to take risks and learn from others. All of our narratives have the common denominator of transition and this challenges is to get out of our comfort zone. We may feel paralyzed to make personal change or find ways to adapt to new circumstances. I hope to shed light about this from my personal perspective. In addition to this, my journey extends beyond my narrative and makes me think about the many students I have served as a Professor of communication. My students will send emails, text messages and more for insight and encouragement regarding their future goals.
Legacy reminds me to never take for granted the challenging moments of life that have influenced me today. Why do we write in our journals, create interesting blogs, design new products or mentor others? Many of us who do this consistently have the hope that we are able to contribute something beyond ourselves. In essence, we are trying to bring solutions to a given challenge or create new ideas that will spark a shift in the organizations where we serve.
In 2009 I was teaching at a 2-year college in Atlanta, Georgia. For the most part, I was pretty content with my role as a Professor, and then I had a student challenge me and say, “Dr. D, you look like you had a perfect life and you never experienced any struggles. You speak proper, and seem educated, so how can you relate to us?" When he said this, I thought to myself, “Wow! I need to tell this story about my journey as a student who grew up in Roxbury." Another student from Massachusetts yelled, “Oh my gosh! I know where you are from and that is a rough area!” I began to share what it was like to come from a place where families struggled to have their basic needs met and discussed the journey of overcoming self-doubt and academic challenge.
I realized it was important to interject my narrative into the lesson plan in order for them to see the connection between their learning and my experience. Students feel connected when they can hear the personal accounts of their teachers. The students I taught in Atlanta shared the same challenges I endured as a young student. They were able to throw off their assumptions that I did not understand their personal struggles. In essence-they were able to trust the learning experience in that moment.
With my students in mind, I strive to tell authentic narratives as a way to broaden the learning experience. When I think of legacy I picture myself looking back to the hundreds of students I have had the pleasure to teach in the past 15 years.
I look forward to this TEDx talk at Bentley University!