Recently I had the fortune of being invited to and attending the ECET2 (Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teaching and Teachers) National Convening. This along with the #semicolonEDU movement inspired the following post. I hope to do a small series of posts related to this that share some stories that have shaped me as an educator and a person.
“Humanity’s legacy of stories and storytelling is the most precious we have. A story is how we construct our experiences. At the very simplest, it can be: ‘He/she was born, lived, died.’ Probably that is the template of our stories – a beginning, middle, and end. This structure is in our minds.” – Doris Lessing
Storytelling – this is powerful stuff. A quick look back into history gives us pause to the importance of storytelling. Generations upon generations have built their stories to teach, to laugh, to connect, and sometimes to cry. They are invaluable. I can remember as a little girl sitting with my grandmother as she would tell me story after story about childhood with her sisters during the depression. She told me about when my grandfather went to war. She told me about my dad and aunt as children. She told me about motherhood, jobs, and how she eventually landed as a librarian for her career. She was unafraid to tell me not only about the good times, but the bad as well. She knew her story and realized the importance of telling it. I carry my grandmother’s voice with me and I am stronger for it.
The longer I spend in education, whether working with kids or adults, the more I recognize the power of storytelling. Stories stick with us and touch our hearts. The stories that myself and other educators tell are at times hilarious (you really can’t make this stuff up), and other times heartbreaking. The importance of sharing them rings true when connections are made with our own lives, our own students. These stories have staying power; they are taken forward and recounted. They are as important for us to tell as they are for others to hear.
Stories generate strong feeling and emotion – the good, the bad, and even the ugly sometimes. A good one has us so engaged that we forget whatever else is going on at that moment. I know in my classroom when I would recount stories of my travels, of my family, or even of previous classes I had everyone’s attention. Of course students love to be the tellers as well – how many of them walk in each day with ‘Guess what happened…’? How many of them will better engage in the rest of class if given just thirty seconds to recount one?
Each day my story grows and develops. It is being constructed by me and all the other stories that connect with it. The more deeply I know my story, the better I can tell it. And telling it is what matters. If I keep my stories to myself, no one else can benefit from my successes and failures. No one can laugh or cry with me and let me know they’ve been there. It takes courage to tell the stories, but the value far outweighs the fear.