Education: Learning from Life through Stories
There is no question here, from your first steps until now, you’re a product of “EDUCATION”. Your parents and family were your first teachers. You began as a learner.
Learning begins naturally because that is what we bring into the world, our genetic and storied inheritances from generations, our lineages or threads to the past. What happens from birth is the process of making meaning through the connections we develop within the spaces and places we are raised and grow.
Before the westernized world divided our mind and body into science and other, learning from life about life happened primarily through stories.
It was stories that helped us learn good from bad behaviors and decisions as far back as ancient Greece through the wonderful and colorful mythic tales of the Gods. In more modern times, parents loved Mrs. Piggle Wiggle and her upside-down house full of cures for bad-behaving children. I’m sure these parents wished she lived in real life!
While many of my friends had parents who shared stories of their lives, my parents were silent in comparison. I heard snippets from neighbors and other adults and was hoping when I began school I would learn about the world through books as I was told books held lots of stories.
Unfortunately, in first grade I was so disappointed by the Dick and Jane reading series that I almost gave up on stories and the magic they supposedly held about the world. Thankfully, when I learned the phonetic rules and had access to more complex stories, my voracious appetite for reading made up for Dick and Jane many times over.
The Power of Stories
What I’ve learned about the power of stories is that whether our world is large enough to connect to the divine or our cares live closer to our homes and families, our stories serve us, connect us, inspire us, and reassure us. It is said that:
“Stories have the power to reach within us, to command emotion, to compel involvement, and to transport us into timelessness. Stories are a way of thinking, a primary organizer of information and ideas, the soul of a culture, and the consciousness of a people. Stories are a way in which we can know, remember and understand.”
Today, with a significant increase in women wanting to learn everything about their ancestors to the science they missed in high school, the use of stories to educate as well as to motivate is experiencing a revival.
Education specialists within professional organizations and associations are beginning to translate the research connections between deeper learning and the narrative structure of stories to bring story-driven learning principles to an eager and welcoming population. This “story-driven learning” is also making its way into popular advice and DIY books.
As an example, it’s been my experience that most books about money are either tall tales of how to get rich quick, or contain mono-tone advice with mundane formulas, spreadsheets and cost analyses. However, very recently was published (April 2017) the book Never Enough: 3 Keys to Financial Contentment by Ron Blue and his daughter Karen. Apparently, as the “story goes”, Karen’s background as a teacher helped her father see the value of stories and as reviewed on Forbes, it appears to be good. It’s on my list to read!
Stories Reveal Spaces and Places to Disconnect Too.
In addition to stories supporting a more powerful way to connect to others and the world, they also serve us by revealing spaces and places to disconnect. These stories are ones you won’t find much in books, or pick up through coursework. How many of us has had an experience in high school or college where we learned not so much about a subject area as to how to survive with a difficult teacher or professor? Or how to survive in a difficult and sometimes unhealthy work environment? It is stories revealed either implicitly or explicitly that make all the difference.
I learned this lesson early on in my teaching career to be attentive to the culture, i.e., “story” of a school building. Everything looked great from a first visit, newer building, pleasant teachers and office staff, and children behaving within an acceptable range. The stories I had read and heard has mostly been very positive and I was ready to begin the paperwork to be hired. However, I happened to overhear a conversation with the principal and a teacher that I found disturbing, so much so that I didn’t complete the final process. It wasn’t until the tension between the teachers and principal became more pronounced enough to reach the newspapers that the principal was fired. I’m glad I paid attention to this hidden story and this attentiveness to hidden stories follows me to this day.
Education, formal or informal, would be meaningless without stories.
What about stories resonates with you? To what extent are they an enriching part of your life? What “hidden stories” about schooling or work made a significant impact on your life? Sharing stories is part of the educative process! Let’s ELM stories!