My students watched in fascination as their teacher could barely contain herself to get the story out. As I wheezed – I’m one of those laughers – my face put a prize-winning tomato to shame as tears rolled down it. Like I said, I’m one of those laughers. The story still gets to me. Even as I write this, I stop and chuckle and wheeze-laugh. Anyway, when I was finally able to finish the rafting story, my students begged for more. And I mean begged. They moaned with disappointment and tried to sway me with that pitiful Puss in Boots look from the Shrek movies. I had to stand firm. And get a tissue to try to repair my face.
Pass it on
If you ask my former students to describe me, storyteller is often at or near the top of their list. What I found interesting – and cute – were the numerous times my students’ younger siblings or friends passed me in the school hallway, grinned a Cheshire cat grin like we had a common secret and whispered, “You’re funny.” It was my stories. They had been passed along who knows when and who knows where to who knows whom. I also heard from parents. My stories were dinnertime entertainment. A few parents even asked me to retell a story, I suppose to confirm what had been shared over a plate of spaghetti.
It took me a few years to realize my stories were far more than fun anecdotes I used to spice up less-than-interesting topics or to extend what we were learning. One day it hit me between the eyes. My stories had been the conduit, if you will, to build and strengthen a bond between my students and me. I was more than a teacher to them. I was a confidante. Someone they felt they knew in a personal way. Someone they could trust. I believe it was the bond built from allowing my students to see me at a personal level – and sometimes at a vulnerable level – that encouraged them or nudged them to come to me for help, for advice, for confession, and for the simple act of being with me. And I am absolutely convinced that the bond built upon storytelling, among other things, is the reason I was able to reach into the hearts of students when they needed correcting and guidance and encouragement.
As teachers, we must make a connection before we can be an influencer. And for me, connections are made through storytelling.
A system created by teachers for teachers, the Honorable Character story began in 1984 with a high-spirited, first-grader named Brad, who’s outgoing social side of his personality resulted in corrections from his teacher for excessive talking. The school’s approach to classroom management showed only one side of Brad’s character and he was picking up the wrong message as a result…