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Storytelling Event Strengthens Bonds at Ed School

By Monica E. Reichard, Contributing Writer

Affiliates of the Harvard Graduate School of Education gathered in Longfellow Hall Thursday at a storytelling event intended to bring strangers at the school closer with one another.

The hour-long event, called “Double Take: Stories That Make You Think Twice,” happens once a semester and provides a venue for performers to speak openly about their personal experiences and struggles, according to Matthew M. Weber, Director of Digital Communications Strategy and Preceptor of Education at GSE.

Dean of the Graduate School of Education James E. Ryan began Double Take last year in an attempt to foster closer bonds between people working and studying at the school. Thursday marked the second-ever Double Take, which began last academic year.

According to Weber, who helped organize the event, Double Take creates an opportunity for people to tell their personal stories, and for audience members to see the storytellers in a different, more intimate, light.

“It’s always thinking about how can a community be strengthened, and what it is that we can do as a community to get to know each other a little better and how that can allow our community to grow,” Weber said.

Earlier this semester, Weber and other colleagues set up a recording studio at the Education School, encouraging anyone who wanted to share their stories to come and do so. Speakers were then coached in storytelling skills, and eight were ultimately chosen to present their stories in front of a live audience Thursday afternoon.

Storytellers focused their narratives on difficult life experiences. These included suffering multiple miscarriages, dealing with a father’s stroke, and living with a physical disability.

One of the storytellers, School of Education student Adan Gonzalez, spoke about being the son of immigrants and his struggle to escape the inner city.

“When I was 12 years old, I started learning English and became a translator for my family,” Gonzalez said. “It was fun—I got to translate the bills my family could soon be evicted for.”

Ethan W. Smith, another School of Education student, shared a personal story of coming to terms with being transgender.

“This was a really unique opportunity to kind of just let the story drive itself, and that was really freeing for me,” Smith said.

Double Take is part of a larger initiative launched this year at the School of Education called the Visible, Open, Interactive Communication for Educators, or VOICE, program. According to Weber, the program looks to help Ed School students become better communicators in various forms, including in narrative storytelling.

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