Yesterday I had the privilege of teaching my workshop, “Everyone’s a Storyteller,” to six classes of 2nd graders at an elementary school in North Ridgeville. One of the reasons I named my workshop “Everyone’s a Storyteller” is because I am amazed at how often I hear people say, “I’m not a storyteller.” These words come out of the mouths of young and old alike, and it is my mission to prove them wrong!
As I like to say, if you have ever shared the events of your day with someone, whether over the phone, over a cup of coffee or over the dinner table, you are a storyteller. All of us tell stories. It’s one of the ways that we find and construct meaning in our lives. It’s how we make sense of everything from our routine daily activities to life’s major events.
Yesterday, while presenting my workshop, I came up against one of those people who refused to admit that he was a storyteller. He was only seven years old, and we’ll call him Anthony. When we did a partner activity of sharing life stories, Anthony said he didn’t have any. He sat there staring at his partner while I tried to prompt him with some ideas, but after awhile I had to move on to help some other groups.
When the time for partner sharing came to a close, I asked who would like to share one of their partner’s stories with the rest of the class. Anthony’s partner raised his hand, and he stood up to begin. As he told, he struggled with some of the details and turned to Anthony for clarification. It was then that Anthony began to share in detail about a new pet frog he’d received. He even spread out his hands in front of him to demonstrate how the frog could glide across the water. His eyes lit up as he shared. When he’d finished, I said, “Give me a high five! You just told a story! Now everyone in this room truly is a storyteller.” Anthony smiled, and so did I. Mission Accomplished!
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The next classroom I visited was extremely engaged and imaginative. They came up with some of the most creative ideas I heard all day when we brainstormed story ideas based on tableaux. But the thing that really amazed me about this class was what happened at its conclusion.
I was gathering up my clipboard and purse and preparing to move on to the next class when a little boy came up to me and said, “We can tell true stories about bullying too.”
“Is that something you are going through?” I asked.
He nodded his head and said, “I told some kids on the bus that when I get scared I suck my fingers. Now they make fun of me and call me ‘finger-sucker.’”
I was amazed that after only a 40 minute workshop session, he had felt comfortable enough to share that with me. When I talk about the reasons that we tell stories with students, I always mention the fact that it builds relationships, and this was a good example of that. I wished I could have stayed and talked some more with the student, but time would not allow it. Instead, I made sure that he had shared what was going on with his teacher and that he was getting help. I also told him how brave he was for letting an adult know what was happening.
These two stories from yesterday are great examples of why I love my work. Storytelling helps people to find their voice. It creates and builds relationship. And that is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what story can do!