I love a good story, don’t you? I mention this because I recently had the good fortune to sit in on a lecture taught by a PCHE colleague of mine who is a brilliant storyteller. The lecture was on the subject of magic in the Bible, and consisted of a short introduction to the subject followed by a series of short stories apparently involving magic, taken from the Bible and told in her own style. She’s very exuberant, competed in storytelling competitions when she was younger and held the students spellbound for 50 minutes, at the end of which time they had not only enjoyed themselves, but had also taken in enough to come out with some intelligent questions.
The whole experience really brought home the importance of the art of storytelling in teaching. When I think back to my school days one of the things that I really enjoyed in English lessons was writing stories. The key thing that my teachers always used to try to get across is that a good story should have a beginning, a middle and an end.
The beginning sets the scene, fills the audience in on any background they might need and generally gets the ball rolling. The middle is the meat of the story and should be where everything really happens. The end wraps up, ties up the loose ends and is the point of the rest of the story happening at all.
Now I come to look at it in this way, everything I write and every presentation I make tells a story. On the micro scale, each paragraph and slide tells it’s own little story. On a big scale, a lecture course or a research project is also a story.
I’ve particularly noticed the story structure of the PCHE course. In the beginning, we learned about reflective practice and supervision: the tools we needed to make sense of the rest. The middle consisted of a wide range of workshops related to teaching practice and theory. Now, at the end, we’ve moved on to subjects like curriculum design and course evaluation, which round everything off quite elegantly by placing it in back in the wider context which we considered earlier on.
Seeing teaching done in this way, with both explicit and implicit reference to stories has caused two changes in me. First, I want to start going to storytelling workshops at the folk festivals I sometimes visit. Second, I’m going to pay more attention to storytelling in my own teaching, speaking and presenting.
How do stories fit into what you do? Are you aware of the stories you tell every day? Share your thoughts in the comments section.