I’ve always thought of myself as someone who enjoys learning. Even when I was most frustrated by my choices, when there was pain and emotional cost, I tried to reach for the moral of my own story. Inside my head, there has always been a narrator; It’s usually the voice of Kevin Arnold, my small screen counterpart of Wonder Years fame. He was not a cool kid, always after the cute girl next door, locker cargo, son falling short of the macho dad–you get the picture. What he did have, that no one else did on the show, was an inquisitive inner-monologue.
When I fall short of my expectations for myself, when I spill hot coffee in my lap while driving through traffic, and when I kiss my wife: I hear Kevin Arnold in my head. The commentary is begrudging, self-deprecating, hopeful, pondering, cursing, and rapturously joyful all at once. Kevin helps me track my story from the moments worth remembering. His pubescent screeches make me laugh as they take me back to my own middle school as well as his fictional Southern California one. His longing for love and adventure keep me yearning for the reason you risk being stuffed in a locker (metaphorical or not).
When I think about narrative, I’m ultimately brought to reflection. The Wonder Years is a entire television series about the beauty, normalcy, and power of your own story. Whether you’re a unpopular and confused middle schooler or a new teacher in a strange chapter of a familiar book, your story is important. Taking note of your own existence, failures, and foibles is something powerful and uniquely human that we can all do.
When I am writing, conversing, and learning with my students, I try to tap into their own monologue. Maybe I picture it being Chris Rock from “Everybody Hates Chris,” or Meredith Grey from “Grey’s Anatomy” in their head, but whomever’s voice I imagine, I always end up peering between their ears.