The Gift of Storytelling

If you are not telling your story, then someone else is telling it for you.                                                                        – Marco Torres, Digital Promise

There are an infinite number of ways to tell a story, and the accounts can change entirely based on the inclusion or omission of simple pieces of information.

In the example above, 6 photographers are presented with a single subject, but each time, the subject’s backstory changes from being a millionaire, to a fortune teller, to a fisherman. The final portrait from each artist is of the same subject in the same room, but the pictures are completely different.

Why is the backstory so important? The first thing students learn when writing their first story in elementary school is all about setting. Who, what, where, and when? What is it about setting the scene that makes or breaks a story?

In a conversation with Robert, a project manager for a non-profit that is designing micro-credentials for educators, he drew examples from his own teaching and learning experiences, citing that the most inspiring teachers and classes he had experienced all focused on context, not content. In my own reflection, the most empowering class I ever had was with a teacher who didn’t plan the lesson based on objectives and vocabulary, but spent time journeying through time and history to give context to help us answer Why rather than What and How. Why are there two separate languages spoken in Spain? Why did the imperialization of Latin America lead to indigenous history being practically ignored by all culture classes? How does that parallel with experiences of Native Americans living in the present day United States?

I learned far more in that Spanish class than I did in my AP History course. Let that sink in.

Robert also talked about his own work with bringing recognition to educators, and how they use micro-credentials to demonstrate skills and innovative teaching (learning) techniques, but then the administrators use them as assessments, performance reviews, and standards for educators to meet, rather than a goal to aspire to, or a new skill to learn. The dichotomies of being told to innovate and inspire, but to do so in certain tracks and settings, all while meeting goals that prevent meaningful learning to take place, are all so confusing to navigate that it seems hopeless to try and make sense of.

American education is on the cusp of great change where enough micro-schools and learning experiences are popping up that traditional schools are getting ready to make the jump from outdated to being more relevant. The biggest hurdle is all the dead weight of hyper-standardization they carry with them. How can you expect your educators to make great strides in the classroom, and empower troubled students to find their passions and become the amazing humans they are meant to be if they aren’t even allowed to explore?

If you want to understand the entrepreneur, study the juvenile delinquent. The delinquent is saying with his behavior: This sucks. I’m going to do my own thing.”           -Yvon Chouinard, Founder of Patagonia

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