I recently had the opportunity to have lunch with some of our high school students and talk about their educational journey in our school district. With a focus on instruction, assessment, resources, and technology, we talked about the things that they felt were important to them and their school.
I went into the conversation wondering what the students (juniors and seniors) would say about the last 12 years in our school district. Would they complain about school lunches or dress code? Would they talk about their favorite teachers or coaches? Would they question whether we should start school later or add more study halls?
The students definitely shared bits and pieces like these, but there was one critical take-away from the conversation---their connections with teachers.
They lit up when they shared about the relationships that they had with some of their teachers. They laughed about funny quirks of some teachers and personal anecdotes from others. One thing rang true--the relationships that were cultivated throughout their high school experience were meaningful and longstanding.
One student shared something particularly important--the idea of educators as storytellers. The group all agreed, the best teachers were those who told stories, not just personal stories, bridging connections in the classrooms but those who wove stories into their content. Without realizing it, their teachers hooked them in to the learning with the power of a story.
This made me reflect on my own education and those teachers who crafted stories within their classrooms. You probably remember some as well--the ones who had you hanging on their every word while (slyly) infusing history or literature content. You felt like they were just talking to you, but they were really just finding pathways to incorporate core content in meaningful ways.
The high school students shared that they found comfort in those teachers who crafted stories to support their subject areas. They expressed feeling more engaged, more interested in the topic, and more connected to their teachers. It didn't matter if it was art, music, math or foreign language, the conversation kept coming back around to the stories that teachers tell. Isn't that what we want for every student? Connections to their teachers. Connections to the content. Personal connections that lead to deeper understanding.
So the challenge is:
Teachers--Reflect this week on your role as a storyteller. Do you weave examples and stories throughout your content? How does that make a difference to your students? Ask them!
School Leaders--As you visit classrooms this week, look for the storytellers. How are these teachers intentionally using storytelling as an instructional tool? What do you notice about student responses?
Also think about your role as a decision maker and an instructional leader, where can you use storytelling to compel others to take action or improve their practice?
Please leave a comment on the power of storytelling in your school. I'd love to hear how these opportunities are impacting teaching and learning.