Storytelling in Teaching: People Love What Other People Are Passionate About

In this first week of career study, I have been thinking a lot about storytelling.

Some of the best teachers I have ever had were so impactful because they knew how to spin a good story. Sometimes it might seem that storytelling in teaching might only lend itself to subjects like history or english. However, it seems that there is a good story to find in everything, and when this story is brought out, students can better see the intricate connections within the material and between the material and other things. Storytelling does not have to just be a lecture format. Stories can be told all the time; when reviewing a packet or a test, during a science lab, anywhere.

In order to really tell the story of a certain topic really well, it seems that one really needs to have a mastery of knowledge of their material, as well as passion and enthusiasm.

I think that storytelling in teaching is so important because:

 

  • It allows learners to become immersed in the material – it is no longer a task to hear about or interact with a certain subject matter. It sparks curiosity by dropping a series of hints. Learners want to continue learning and working with the material so that they can continue to discover what happens next
  • It allows learners to see a teacher’s humanity through making connections – as a teacher becomes excited about the story, students get to see fundamental parts of this person and what makes them tick. This helps students reflect on who they are themselves.
  • Telling a good story requires a mastery of knowledge of the material. When one has a great understanding of their material, they are able to identify and illustrate the intricacies and connections within their subject. When a student sees a teacher always finding new connections and points of interest in the material, they see the teacher as a constant learner just like them. This perhaps lessens the divide between the omniscient sage on the stage and the student as an empty vessel.
  • The excitement that a student feels seeing a teacher passionate about something spreads like a fever. As Emma Stone’s character in La La Land says: People love to see other people being passionate

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  • Being excited and passionate about telling a good story also shows a student that the teacher cares. One teacher I am career studying with pointed out that “students don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” I think this is true and I think good story telling demonstrates that the teacher cares enough to know their material well enough to package it as and see it as a story. I think this makes students buy into the material a bit more because it shows that it may really be something worth listening to or thinking a little bit about. I think it also can demonstrate to the students that they are cared for by the teacher. Telling a good story requires demonstrating one’s humanity and showing compassion and empathy. Whenever I have had a teacher that was a really good story teller, understanding their material so deeply and passionately also made them concerned with how we were understanding the information they were imparting and guiding us through. This also made them attuned to what could be impacting that, which made them attuned and willing to listen to any problems in or outside of school students have.
  • Students simply like to see and be around a teacher who is happy and open to interacting with them. This also automatically can encourage students to buy into the story the teacher is packaging.
  • Good storytelling is made possible oftentimes through teacher’s ability to find connections within and between the subject they are teaching and other things. Illustrating these connections and telling the story well can help encourage eureka moments.

 

Something that I have been struggling with is how to try to tell a good story to engage learners in situations where the learners are assigned a page of questions that they do not want to do and resist any assistance in completing the questions. Often times this turns into a guessing game. The question on paper might be “what did the discovery at Knossos reveal about the Minoans?” I try to show them that they do know the answers to much of these questions already without looking in the text; they just have to stop and ponder for a moment. To the question about Knossos, today a table group and I took a moment to wonder what it might be like if we found an ancient palace somewhere. If we stumbled upon a crumbling ancient palace, what would we think about the people who potentially built this place? There could be many correct answers, as long as they can be backed up with evidence. Today someone shouted “MONEY” and began laughing hysterically. They thought that this was not the answer, but yes! That’s it! It is reasonable to think that these people, the Minoans were economically prosperous if they were able to build such a grand building. This person who shouted “money” seemed surprised to hear this and was not fully buying in. We then began to run through two other answers by simply wondering about the answers rather than rereading the text we had read multiple times. I wanted them to realize that they are knowledgeable, that the Ancient Greeks are a little like them. I wanted them to realize that they were better and smarter than this paper which seemed to become a giant wall in the way of the end of the day as the period went on.

Something that I initially think I was not keeping directly in mind in the very beginning of this career study experience was that the only time these students are with us thinking about the material we are looking at in class are for 45 minutes out of the entire day. For how much time I spent thinking about how I could be the best storyteller I could be and fulfill all the qualities of good teachers that we found when interviewing teachers and students, students will spend barely any time thinking about what we are doing in class beyond trying to get homework done if we do not tell a good story (and maybe {likely???} even if we do tell a good story????) simply because they just have so many other more important things happening in their lives.

This made me realize that as a teacher, I would like to have a lasting impact on others, but at the very least, I just want to be there to tell a good story, to spark some interest, some curiosity, some joy for 45 minutes in their day, and to be there for them if they need anything. Maybe this is enough to be something positive and good and perhaps have a lasting impact. I know that any teacher who told me a good story every day had a lasting impact on me. This is all I ever wanted because it engaged me, it helped me learn deeply, it provided me with examples of how I might improve my own storytelling skills, and gave me a way to connect as a person with my teachers.

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3 thoughts on “Storytelling in Teaching: People Love What Other People Are Passionate About

  1. Reblogged this on Only Connect and commented:
    A student I learned with this year spins a good story about her first week in the classroom and why Storytelling is so important.

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  2. Wonderful post! We are, as the title of a book goes, “The Storytelling Animal.” And then, of course, there’s this: “The world is a story we tell ourselves about the world.” –Vikram Chandra. I probably used that quotation with you in class, but its foundational for my own work in the classroom. As well, it is the toughest thing to get back when you have to shift the story (moving from one curriculum to another), and yet, at the same time, it can’t be a stagnant story, right? It has to be flexible, shifting, changing.

    If you google “presentation storytelling” you’ll get 100s of pages about he importance of stories in the presentations that business, professional, teacher, and other occupations do.

    Finally, Storytelling is the reason I begin my 10th grade classes with the Salman Rushdie novel, “Haroun and the Sea of Stories.” You should read it if you haven’t.

    But, Oh! You are learning so much, and so am I. Keep up the great work.

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  3. Yes, I feel it. When our teacher is passionate so that us students. In other hand if they aren’t we will just ya you know what~ So teachers mood is one of the key of the successful learning.

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