Profile picture
R. Francis Williford @rfwilliford
, 60 tweets, 11 min read Read on Twitter
Here's a thread of progressing musings from the class I teach every week. I hope you'll take this ride with me. Here goes nothing (everything):
Class #1: Some familiar faces & some new. Welcome & intros. Nervous fidgeting. Backstory of the class & how it came to be. Syllabus/roadmap of course. Discussion on storytelling (an interview of @shondarhimes). Bold & bright & thought-provoking perspectives on 1st day.
Class #1 (cont'd): A video on the dangers of silence by @ClintSmithIII. Some questions about the heaviness of silence & the role it (does/doesn't) play in storytelling. These students are quick, thoughtful, & brave. Willing to explore. Excited for next week already.
Class #2: we talked about stories that have shown up in the last week—community parties, weddings, interviews, headphones—and what that meant for us as tellers and hearers and observers of the world. Talked about how important stories can be for us, even tough stories.
Class #2 cont’d: talked about storytelling through the lens of individuals who ID as lesbian, gay, bi. Stories of being unheard. Stories of being in a community that might sometimes have a seat at the table but how that doesn’t always mean the voice is heard.
Class #2 cont’d: stories through tragedy, through heartbreak, through poetry and words spoken out loud. Talked about the power in that. How a story changes when it goes from the page to out loud—eyes to ears. Stories of silence and spaces.
Class #2 cont’d: talked about the Pulse shooting. How people can be in a space that allows them to be inherently themselves. How that can be taken away in seconds. What a space can do and what it means to take that space away.

We’re scratching the surface of what this means.
Class #3: we talked about black students on college campuses, how higher ed institutions were not originally created for anyone aside from white men, and who—today—creates spaces for expression, connection, and access.
#3 cont’d: history (written or not; taught or not) follows us and we have opportunities to flip the experiences for students who are historically and systematically marginalized, known or otherwise.
#3 cont’d: we takes about hip hop, it’s origins, and how it became a medium for storytelling for black students on campuses during some of America’s most divisive times. Tension in the room, but mostly from not wanting to misstep when talking about this content.
#3 cont’d: these students have heart. I can see it even when they don’t speak up. They wear it on their faces. They want to know how to talk about big things. Want to know how to create spaces where stories can be told. Want to tell stories themselves. Big stories.
#3 final note: I never know where the class is going to go. We create an outline before every class and loosely follow. Can’t account for the hearts entering the room, the headspace, what stories people will tell. This work is truly rewarding. Humans will surprise you. Let them.
Class #4: class read Audre Lorde and did a silent discussion activity of reflection as a group. Talked about deaf humans and storytelling. Access. Accommodation. Who’s listening? Who isn’t? Why or why not? And in what ways do we see stories unfold in the dead community? Etc.
#4 cont’d: the class was brimming with stories from people who see/heard/encountered others who are just trying to live. Just trying to work and learn and be human, too. So many stories.
#4 cont’d: I’m always in awe of the way these students carefully and thoughtfully consider the way their peers navigate campus and the world. Stories help to paint pictures for empathy, kindness, and a deep state of knowing to show up and prevail.
#4 final note: still leaving class with a sense of hope. Still inspired by these students who are taking time to consider stories. Still wondering why I get to do this whole teaching thing and still glad I took a small step against an inner voice trying to talk me out of it.
Class #5: we did an activity where students had to use the contents of their bags to tell a story about themselves. Talked about women in leadership & on college campuses. Did an activity centered around the “woman” box. Talked more about Audre Lorde and her writings.
#5 cont’d: 15/16 students ID’ed as female; I didn’t need to stand & lecture about the experiences of women from my POV. They were living it. Talked about their fields & male dominated spaces on campus (in the world). Talked about societal expectations & not fitting into that.
#5: students were thoughtful and driven to ID ways to make spaces on college campuses better for women. Talked about how stories play a large role in awareness and overall change of structural barriers for women.
#5: as always, it’s the highlight of my week to sit with these humans and talk about big things happening in the world. They are full of perspective and life. So many stories. So much heart. I hope they leave as encouraged as I do.
Class #6: we talked about international students on campus, specifically Middle-Eastern students. About the relationship between photos and memory. About how what’s not in a photo can tell a story, too. About how we can share things that sum up a year, however hard it may be.
#6: we wrestled with what stories can be told over time through a single photo. How we interact with that memory and how time changes a memory. How stories are born over and over again when we see something that can remind us of a life once lived; a life yet to be lived.
#6: can’t help but wonder how a story that once brought us joy can now bring us something entirely different. A memory changed.

These students wrestled & wondered with me. What a gift—amidst my own wrestling and wondering—a group of someones could enter a space & do the same.
Class #7: We talked about mental health issues for students on campus, what barriers are in place, and how mental health issues might impact a student's story. This was also the last class before fall break and students seemed to be carrying heavy things. & honestly same.
#7: We talked about the stories of the last week, namely the big news at Ball State, and how we responded to it. Anger. Disgust. Fear. Hopelessness. Confusion. A lot of not knowing what to do. A lot of silence. & honestly... same.
#7: Talked about how "it will get better" isn't always a helpful narrative. And how students deal with feeling what they feel in the moment. Some had tears. Some, very visibly impacted emotionally. Talked about the importance of peers and how we can eliminate barriers for people.
#7: We watched @andreagibson's "The Madness Vase" and talked about what staying looked like. What hurting looked like. How we lean on others. How some days, we just don't feel like enough & what that means. & honestly same.
#7: These students show up every class & carry the things they're dealing with. & honestly same. It makes me proud to be able to spend 100 mins w/ them every week & to see them explore & wrestle with things they may not have otherwise. They're writing their stories. How profound.
Class #8: we talked about trans* and non-binary students on college campuses (and in the world), how important representation can be for belonging, and the limits/benefits of writing a collective story. We could have talked for a whole day about this stuff. Such great energy.
#8: voices weaved in and out of the collective stories we write and how different of an experience that can be from one person’s story.
#8: how sense of belonging can be so intricately placed in relation to someone’s identity, perhaps especially for those who are systematically marginalized.
#8: talked about how privilege plays a role, and how we may earn it or may be born with it. How we can use it regardless to create better spaces for those who may not have it to use on their own. How stories are impacted when we can do that for people.
#8: these students continue to leave me energized after every class. Such bright and thoughtful and beautiful voices that come together each week and learn how powerful that sort of community can be. How powerful we all can be.
#8: “All humans need mirrors and screens and pages that reflect our inner and outer being. The less we are reflected, the more we are gaslighted, and the harder it is to form our solid selves.” -Annie Tritt
Class #9: talked about atheist, agnostic, humanist, and non-religious students on campus. Barriers to not believe or to question a god or gods. I could tell the class was hesitant about this topic. I kind of was, too. It’s something I’m not terribly open about in my life.
#9: conversation felt... flat. Methodical, almost. It happened. People talked. But not much buzz. That’s partially on me. Partially on the students who were feeling the thick of the semester hang high above their heads.
#9: sometimes, it’s just like that. The conversation can move and can stand still. Things can feel heavy and it’s not for any particular reason. These students are still bold & bright & wonderful storytellers. Much of what they’re working through, I might also be. Grateful.
Class #10: talked about undocumented humans, DACA, DREAMers, and privilege. Shared stories of individuals who are undocumented and just trying to live well in a place that is safe and brimming with opportunity.
#10: I don’t make every class directly about politics. Usually let them make those connections themselves. But this topic is constantly in the national scope of conversation. We needed to talk about it. Over half the class knew someone who is undocumented. It relates to us all.
#10: talked about privilege of being born in USA and not having to worry about the experience of being an immigrant. Students shared bright thoughts filled with anger, hope, sadness, and a willingness to create a space for humans.
#10: I shared about my grandmother, who’s birthday was the same day as class. How she was Greek and her family came over to America for opportunity. How she worked and lived here. How living and working someone is a privilege in and of itself.
#10: talked about privilege from the perspective of @janaya_khan: “privilege is not about what you’ve gone through, it’s about what you haven’t had to go through.”

The whole world cracked open. We lived inside of that for some moments. For a second, we all understood.
#10: always inspired by these folks. Getting to read their journals this weekend and I am excited. Hopeful. Heartbroken. Motivated. Feeing their weighing worries and anxieties. Willing to show up for them. Willing to be there for them being there for themselves.
Class #11: talked about social media, how it can amplify storytelling, and how marginalized folks can use it to have a greater voice. We looked at things like @postsecret & The Stranger Project & asked them to ask their networks to tell a story. Cool results.
#11: students are bright and bold and thoughtful. Evident that storytelling can transcend boxes we are put into sometimes. So long as someone has access to internet and a story to tell, there will be platforms.
#11: Grateful again and again for this class, these students, our collective minds together every Wednesday. Hope they keep writing stories and creating worlds/spaces where others feel compelled to stand in their truths.
Class #12: Coming up on the last two course content days of this class, so this particular period--about Muslim humans on college campuses--started with an activity in noticing. Observing. Sitting and paying attention to what we see. What we hear. How we feel the world around us.
#12: Students were told to go to a space on campus and simply notice. No phones. No distractions. Just take up a space and notice. Then, write about what you see.

Some students looked at me like "...huh?" Some gave me a side eye. Some shrugged and did it.
#12: They returned after 15 minutes or so with words on what they noticed. We talked about it. How we often miss things right in front of us when we are scurrying from one place to the next. How we block things out when we're in motion all the time. How we forget to see.
#12: We moved from there to a discussion about what it could mean to live, work, and experience life as a Muslim human. How people can be othered simply because of how they look, how they are perceived. Talked about religion. Had some hard conversation about things that mattered.
#12: This time, the conversation was on them. I didn't guide. Didn't facilitate. Just listened, with wonder, to the stories they had to tell. Hard conversations they've had, or perhaps haven't had, & what that all meant. How navigating the world as an "other" changes experience.
#12: These students had an hour-long conversation without a facilitator. It's not something I'm surprised by at all; they're bright and thoughtful and eager to share stories. With each other. Things that matter. Big and bold and hard things.
#12: I just wonder how limiting we can be sometimes, as educators, to not create a space & empower the people in it to stand in their truth, hear one another, & think about/wrestle with big things.

Stories are everywhere, folks.
#12: Sometimes we just have to have the audacity to hear them. To notice. To stand in that wonder of what a story could mean for someone or something. We have that power. Just takes a step.
Class #13: Today's class--the final class where we cover actual content--was about first generation college students. What their stories might be. How we wouldn't really know who among us identify as such. How sense of belonging can be greatly impacted by this status.
#13: We talked about fear and the role it might play in understanding others. Talked about joy and whether or not everyone is deserving of it. Talked about empathetic curiosity, what it means, how it can open doors to holistically understanding someone that we are not.
#13: I've said it so many times but these students are thoughtful, observant, and so willing to wrestle with big ideas. There were more than a few moments where I just stood there with the biggest silly smile on my face. The grace they give to one another is evident.
#13: I really do hope they have things they can take away from this class. Not just storytelling and listening, but how to step into their own story. How to believe in themselves and how to stand in their truth. How to wonder. How to lend themselves to things that matter.
#13: Perhaps most of all, how to be themselves the best way they know how to each day. Missteps & failures included. Mountaintops & beautiful views included. Heartbreak & joy & pain & fears included. We are all miracles full of stories.

We are all magic.
Missing some Tweet in this thread?
You can try to force a refresh.

Like this thread? Get email updates or save it to PDF!

Subscribe to R. Francis Williford
Profile picture

Get real-time email alerts when new unrolls are available from this author!

This content may be removed anytime!

Twitter may remove this content at anytime, convert it as a PDF, save and print for later use!

Try unrolling a thread yourself!

how to unroll video

1) Follow Thread Reader App on Twitter so you can easily mention us!

2) Go to a Twitter thread (series of Tweets by the same owner) and mention us with a keyword "unroll" @threadreaderapp unroll

You can practice here first or read more on our help page!

Did Thread Reader help you today?

Support us! We are indie developers!

This site is made by just three indie developers on a laptop doing marketing, support and development! Read more about the story.

Become a Premium Member and get exclusive features!

Premium member ($3.00/month or $30.00/year)

Too expensive? Make a small donation by buying us coffee ($5) or help with server cost ($10)

Donate via Paypal Become our Patreon

Thank you for your support!