Sometimes we underestimate the power of a story. Stories can teach, build empathy, make us laugh, take us to new places, build understanding, create questions, support a stance… Stories – we love to listen to them.
Doris Kearns Goodwin, at the ASCD Empower 19 Conference, talked about great leaders. “Great leaders,” she said, “communicate simply and directly through stories.”
If we look at Jesus the Christ, we see one who spoke and taught through parables and questions. Jesus knew the power of a good story. Jesus knew how questions lead others to stretch their thinking. Make no mistake, stories can be powerful.
In today’s world, we are encouraged to tell our stories. Why? Our stories help others to understand who we are and what we are about. It may bring attention to difficulties in our world and our society. Stories can cause others to take action. Our stories can be a way of connecting to the hearts of others.
When I am listening to a speaker, I listen more intently when the speaker tells stories. Between the facts, I like to hear the stories that support the facts. Stories make speeches more interesting and build those connections. In our classrooms and schools, stories are important for all of these reasons and more. Stories build pictures in our minds.
Some stories have been passed down from generation to generation. These stories have helped people understand where they came from. The stories told the hardships and joys of their ancestors. These stories continue on to build strength and hope in future generations.
Besides the speaker telling stories, we have to be willing to listen to the stories of those around us. All students have a story. Each of us has a story. Sometimes we want to hide that story. We don’t want our story to be told. We don’t realize that when we share our story it begins to set us free.
One year I had a preschool student who was in foster care. He had lived in an abusive home, and had been shot in the foot. I knew his story before he entered our preschool. He could not tell his story, but I saw the effects of his story. He expressed his anger through outbursts and tantrums. He expressed his sadness through silence and crying. It took him a while to trust me. It took him months to allow me to hug him and console him. He had a story he couldn’t tell. He didn’t know how to tell it except through emotions.
Listen to the stories around you. Pay attention to those stories. Let those stories touch your heart. Allow those stories to bring you to action in a way that helps others. Go ahead – tell your story. Great leaders and teachers know how to use stories to provide meaning in a world that sometimes seems meaningless. What’s your story?