Saturday, May 10, 2014

The Power of Storytelling

Storytelling has been an invaluable element of the human experience since the dawn of mankind. Every culture places a high value on telling stories whether it be for entertainment, education, teaching values, or to protect those who would listen from repeating mistakes of the past. All of us can remember at least in some small way how story telling has played a role in our upbringing.

In the classroom, the art of storytelling has been misinterpreted in many classes for many years. Somehow, storytelling has turned into lecture, vocabulary, and textbooks. Developing the skills for storytelling has turned into students reading bullet points on a PowerPoint. Students are not asked to "work a room," be entertaining, make profound statements while also backing them up, or simply teaching their classmates about a subject that they know little about. Instead, teachers and students participate in a monotonous exchange of talk and take notes. New flash...this is not storytelling!

So why is storytelling important? You would be hard pressed to find many jobs where you are not required to communicate effectively. In most jobs, you are asked to either sell something or convince someone what the value of your product or your work is. These are the skills developed in storytelling. You have a message, you develop a interesting package in which to deliver it, you tell your story in a way that is compelling and believable, and you are confident in doing this. If our students can develop these skills, they will be competitive in the job market.

This is not reserved for students that are outgoing or funny. There are many ways, shapes and forms to excel in storytelling. Give students choice in how they deliver. This could take shape in the form of writing, media, art, and more. If they nurture these skills, they will blossom in this area down the road. We need to teach them how to deliver and sell the message they are putting forward. Thinking of how many areas in your life where that skill is a must.

So what does lecture become? Lecture turns into teachers using storytelling to model what it looks like for students. Every great teacher you have had was a master at this. Make your stories interesting. Make the idea of being a great storyteller compelling. Put passion into your delivery. Because whatever you model, is what you are going to receive in return. Teach students that they don't need a lot of text on a slide when they present. Teach them the skill of presence and delivery. If you you read bullet points on a regular basis, don't be surprised when they do the same thing.

Our students will be better in interviews, in business deals, as parents, and as life long learners if we teach them the value of storytelling. There is a reason why it has been an important part of human history. Great teachers are great storytellers, who teach their students to become great storytellers as well. Leading is Teaching.

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