A few years ago, I met Rick Ayers in a meeting for the Educational Advisory Board for Voice of Witness. He is one of those people you meet who instantly inspires you to deconstruct your normal thinking and question your own day-to-day career moves. After a discussion with him and the other members of the Board, I felt like I was released from the regimented standards of education that can too easily be accepted as an educator's sole mission. After 10 years of teaching, I realized that I needed to reframe why I was an educator. I needed to negotiate a new way to function within the structures of education that go unquestioned, while vigorously engaging my students in meaningful routes to becoming more human. These routes were through oral history and the power of storytelling.
In many ways, I would say that, like Ayer's explains of history, education is also, "An ongoing negotiation of meaning and action". Ayers is a person who seems to live that participatory negotiation. I am once again inspired by him in his blog entry, and am reminded to frame and reframe my projects in oral history: to challenge my own intentions through conscientious editing and awareness of the power dynamics that exist as an oral historian. Below is a mere portion of his blog, which I highly recommend consuming!
"In oral history, we celebrate the voice of the voiceless, we ask the interviewees to tell their own stories. Oral history is radical because it seeks to reverse the traditional narrative voice of history, to look from the eyes of the oppressed. This is all good, but even here we must be careful. Because, as with documentary film, we still exercise great power in our ways of framing stories: in the voices chosen, in the introduction given, and most importantly in the editing of the transcript.
Students should absolutely do oral history and research projects in their own neighborhoods or anywhere. But history is not just another conversation – it’s an ongoing negotiation of meaning and action."