Tell me a story…

I have to give credit to a twitter convo between @wmchamberlain, @spencerideas, and @shareski for being the spark for this post.

twitter convo

Have we forgotten how to hold kid’s interest without tricks?

I heard a storyteller once tell a tale that I have not forgotten.

I can remember that she walked to the front of the room and sat criss-cross on a desk.  She said, “I am going to tell you a story that is almost an hour long. ”  She paused for the very subtle but noticeable groans.  She then said, “Most of you will be turned off after the first line when you find out it is about baseball.  But is about more than baseball, and it is a story that will make you lose track of time.”

She proceeded to tell the story, and 60 minutes later she finished.  It could have been 6 minutes, maybe it was more than 60, I don’t know because I lost track of time and never even looked at my watch even once.

After she was finished, a student asked a simple question.  “What is the moral of that story?” Her answer burned into my brain.  “The moral is is not up to me to determine, it is up to your heart to determine. Great storytellers never tell the audience what to think.”

That hit me hard.  I was five years into teaching.  I was hitting that phase where essential questions drove my teaching.  Objectives were clearly written on the board.  I had 25 kids walking out of class all being able to re-state what they were “supposed to” have learned that day.  Every unit drove home a powerful point.  I even designed each unit to have a moral.

“Great storytellers never tell the audience what to think.”

I still remember that line, that story, that classroom, where I was sitting, how I felt when she said that line, and how it impacted my teaching the very next day.

I listened to that story 20 years ago.  The storyteller’s name was Carol Birch.  You leave a little piece of yourself with everyone you meet.  That day Carol left a piece of herself with me that I used as a cornerstone to re-build myself as a teacher.  I learned the importance of story.

When I look back at the people that each left a block with me that I used to build my teaching career, they each have one thing in common–they told great stories.  They were not professors and teachers who supported Project Based Learning , active learning, or used programs or techniques like Class Dojo 🙂

They were people who changed my life with stories.

I wonder if teachers have forgotten how to tell a story? Have we forgotten how to hold kid’s interest without “tricks?”

Could you walk in tomorrow, sit on a desk in the middle of the room, and with just your voice, could you grab kids hearts for 5 minutes? 10? 20?

I challenge you to try it.

Grab and hold kids’ attention without any tricks.  Without any technology.  Without any images or video.  Let a great story be the center of your class one day.

Tomorrow don’t just focus on content.  Use that content to tell a story that has heart. Remember kids do not want to be taught, they want to be moved.

And this is where I should probably end…but I feel the need to add one more thing.  Kids do want to be moved, but they also want to have the power to move others.  Make sure you give them the chance to tell stories in class.  And I challenge you again…let them do it without any tricks 🙂



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *