Storytime

First of all I have to apologize for the tardiness of this post. I have been struggling with ideas, worthiness and time. I need a blogging buddy to keep me accountable!

I have always loved a good story, no matter the medium: told by an animated friend, played out on the big screen or found on the pages of a book. Stories felt like an escape, an adventure, a pause. So as ADE2015 (Apple Distinguished Educator Institute) kicked off a few weeks back and we were presented with the theme of STORY, I was excited for the learning ahead. The conference didn’t disappoint as we explored the elements of a good story through film, explored how story appears in our design, in the composition of our images as well as an overflowing list of inspiring stories on stage.

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For me though, the real learning about STORY didn’t happen under the spotlights. It was in the one on one (or one on few moments) of conversation at the beach, during breakfast, around the table. See I have always loved telling stories. If you read this blog regularly, stories seem to be how I share my world (maybe it is my constant attempt to avoid big words). I don’t know though if I always appreciated the value that stories could bring to our learning community or worse if I was taking the time to listen closely to the stories of those around me.

There were so many stories that helped me learn and connect but I think that is what we expect from a story exchange at a conference. A give and get of ideas. The luxury of having 4-5 days together allowed me to learning a few more surprising powers of a story.

As we sat around the table in a small pizzeria after some crazy science experiment ice cream and a sweet inducing but inspiring art walk, we sat back and moaned a slight sigh of relief. The water came and the food waiting began so we started sharing our stories of adventure; stories of rediscovering family history; stories of families back home and landscapes out our window; stories of adventures we were hoping to have in the future. In that moment I realized how much of ourselves we give in stories. Stories have the power to make us human, to remind us that we are more similar than different.

I often see stories as something that is shared with us, passed down from one to another, exchanged like currency in a store but out with the guys one night I realized that co-writing our stories together forms community. The institute was full of long days packed with great learning but we needed an escape so we headed down to South Beach to observe the scene. An interesting ride in a taxi van and uber back, a late night toe dip in the ocean and some crazy loud music later we found ourselves laughing, chatting and sharing about life. Education wasn’t a banned topic at the table but it wasn’t everything. I realized how our shared story helped us form community. Our shared story brought the individual pieces together to be one. 

I had met the ladies from Brazil at breakfast in the morning. With limited language (my Portguese needs much work) we were able to exchange some information and then reconnect later in our learning communities. They had this feel good positive vibe going on that no matter the language barrier you wanted to be around them. It came time to share what we do and as C. began, despite the translator, I found myself focusing on her words. With every word I could see her passion for her kids, her passion for wanting to make a difference, her belief in change. There may have been a tear or two. Stories have the power to inspire you. Sometimes it is a call to change, sometimes a call to explore but best of all sometimes they reconnect you with the belief that this job is as powerful as we believe.

I don’t think anyone would argue the power of a great story (the film and book industry would agree I’m sure). For me I leave challenged to take the time: take the time to just sit with no agenda, no plan, just listen to the story shared. Maybe it will be a typical educational story exchange but hopefully it will be a chance to connect, to understand and to be inspired. 

What do stories mean to you?

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3 thoughts on “Storytime

  1. The way you described your experience with stories and storytelling resonates with me on several levels. Allowing yourself to be fully present as you listen to someone’s story, with no agenda, no plan and suspending judgment is truly a gift, both for the listener and the storyteller. I will speak for myself to say that deep listening in this way is something that I needed to learn, practice and continue to practice everyday. Quieting the racing mind that is relating to what is being said or searching for something to say next, or adding something of value to assist with the story, can be an ongoing challenge that may unintentionally distract the storytelling process. The alternative may be to ask questions that allow the storyteller to go into greater depth, which uncovers the important values and beliefs that underlie their story. Enhancing the storytelling process in this way creates a powerful connection between the storyteller and those listening. The storyteller is often honoured by the undivided attention he/she is getting and feels both heard and valued. Taking the time with colleagues, students, parents and friends, to really help them understand the story they are telling about themselves is a powerful way to connect. Our connection to the storyteller allows them to be more connected to themselves and I believe this reciprocating process of connection to self impacting connection to the group, fuels the expansive view of leadership as a collective process. I spend a great deal of time listening deeply to people’s stories in my roles as a professional coach, administrator, parent and friend. I notice how passionately individuals tell their story, how they relish the opportunity to be heard, how they strive to make the pieces fit and yet how quickly they adapt their thinking when new awareness comes to light. Storytelling is a powerful process for everyone involved . Telling our story about who we are as an educator to someone who is listening deeply will allow us to create a collective story about who we can become as educators whirling about in this energized sea of change.

    Thank you for inspiring me with your thoughtful words about storytelling

    • Thank you Heike. Listening attentively is definitely something I continue to work on. I find sometimes being away makes it easier but I need to find that time ‘at home’ too. As you said, it is stunning to see how much is revealed through a story. Especially kids 😉
      Thanks again for your comment and reading!

  2. Pingback: Storytime Part 2 | Miss Kit Kat

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