Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Are Master Teachers Also Master Storytellers?

I love stories. Reading them, listening to them, watching them. Through stories, we can live many lifetimes. Travel to exotic places. Have amazing, death-defying adventures. Save the world. Experience life from a different perspective. As humans, we enjoy connecting with others. Through compelling stories, we get that opportunity, whether the characters are fact or fiction. Great stories touch our hearts and propel us forward as new, different individuals. When we read, hear, or view great stories, we want to know what happens to these characters. Will they survive? Will they be happy? We become invested in them.

As I reflect upon this, I can't help but think back to some of the most compelling stories that have stuck with me over the years. I remember having some fantastic teachers who wove the most intriguing stories that drew their audience (their students) into the world they were sharing with us, whether it was fact or fiction. What they said mattered to us as students because we became invested.

When I entered the classroom, without recognizing it (at first), I began emulating these fantastic teachers by weaving stories for my own students. It wasn't until I was observed by another teacher who pointed out that the students were hanging on my every word; they were engaging and interacting just when the story called for it. It was a history class and I was telling "The True History Story" about a historical that history books dared to leave out. That's when I realized that storytelling is a crucial skill for teachers to employ with their students.

We want our students to connect with our content. We want it to matter to them. By creating stories that set the stage for a lesson or frame a new concept, we are opening up a new world for them. When it's done well, learners connect and ask questions. They develop empathy for others. Students see the relevance of why they are learning what we are asking them to learn. Students become invested.

So when you enter the classroom and it's time to teach a new concept, introduce a new style of writing, dive into a new author, or explore a new principle, ask yourself, "How can I weave this into a story that will hook my students and make the learning meaningful?" It can be as simple as changing the lighting or arrangement of the classroom. Sometimes you take on a different persona or change your voice. Stories have power, a power to elevate our students and propel them forward to do great things. What story will you tell?

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