The Importance of Stories

07 Aug


I love stories. In fact, I have spent the better part of my life immersed in them. When I was a child, I read voraciously. Stories were a window to the world. They allowed me to imagine the impossible, to test my convictions, to think about serious issues from another person’s perspective and sometimes, to just escape into fantasy. As an adult I became fascinated with the construction of the story. I wanted to know more about the authors, the traditions, the influences and the cultures out of which the stories came. I wanted to read and be exposed to more stories. That passion has never abated. I love stories so much that I earned degrees in literature and then teaching so that I could spend my life reading and sharing stories with others, and sometimes even creating them myself.

As a parent, I think about the stories I tell my children. I want them to have the same experiences that I did, and I want them to have more at the same time. As a teacher, I think long and hard about the stories that I bring into the classroom. I am fortunate to be teaching at a time when I can address these issues. I love the fact that the curriculum allows me the freedom to choose which texts to teach. It also allows the students to choose texts of their own to read and write about. I love the fact that my school has a book room, tucked away in the basement with rows and rows of class sets of stories just waiting to be read. There are novels, plays, short stories, poems. At the same time, I worry about the stories that are not in that room. How do we, as teachers decide which stories will be studied as a class? My students will read and view a great deal more than the few texts we are able to study as a class. However, the texts we share are important. 

This morning I watched Chimamanda Adichie's wonderful TED Talk, "The Danger of a Single Story". it has made me think once again about my professional practice. Am I doing enough to include a broad range of stories in my class? Whose stories get told, and whose voices are silenced? 

For any teachers (or anyone involved in education): How do you select the stories for your class? How do you decide which stories will make the cut? Are there stories that are underrepresented? And if so, how do you strive to include them? What are some stories that you wish more teachers taught?

Photograph: "Library Books" by Timetrax23