The Story of Healing, chapter 2
I have decided to write several chapters on this topic of storytelling in more manageable bitesize reads as I realised that this too was a topic that needed more attention than what one post could offer. I also prefer to write shorter posts. As I know we are all busy... and sometimes a shorter post with some food for thought is enough to spark reflections - so there is time for reading and reflection.
For those of you that have been following me for some time, you will know that stories have featured a lot in my work... philosophically with the children, but also in the children exploring, re-inventing, acting out and retelling through various mediums. I have also been exploring Indigenous storywork and how that can inform how I work with children... I am still very much in the beginning of this chapter of my learning journey... but here are some of my thinking so far..
Sara Florence Davidson in her chapter in the book "Decolonizing Research: Indigenous Storywork as methodology" writes that there are seven Indigenous storywork principles -
Responsibility Reverence Reciprocity
She goes on to explain how these principles are relevant to research... but I have been reflecting on how they are relevant in early childhood education, especially when it comes to thinking of education as a series of stories that we are all telling... and also in young children's storytelling.
We need to respect that when children (all people really) tell us their stories, or share their creative stories they are sharing a part of themselves. We need to be respectful of this process and the stories that are shared. Listening is part of that respect. Valuing the stories is also part of that respect. So take the time and energy to receive the story as if the greatest and most respected author/storyteller was talking to you - regardless of age receive the story well.
Be responsible as an active listener. Be responsible for the mistakes you make - for instance when we did our philosophy sessions we always read back to the children what we had written down to ensure that we had faithfully recorded what they said. The children were able to correct any mistakes that we had made. The same when we write down the stories that the children dictate to us... make sure you read it back so that the child has the chance to ensure that the story is theirs and what is on the paper is the story that has been verbally shared.
We also need to take responsibility for what we say as educators and how we say it... so that we are not censuring the children, we are not putting our words into their mouths (this is not the same as helping them find the words they need to express their story). We need to take responsibility that our questions and our words include and invite participation of everyone.
This is the idea of prayer, song, ritual, ceremony and spirituality connected to Indigenous storytelling. In early childhood I see it as the routines and rituals we create to honour the child and their stories. For example during our philosophy sessions we always created a circle, so that we could equally see each other, we always started with the same mantra of "We listen with our ears, our eyes, ours hearts and our minds" - it was like creating a special space physically, mentally and emotionally for us to share with each other - a kind of spirituality if you like. It is creating a sense/state of deep respect for listening to each others stories. This can also be done with storytelling, creating a routine/ritual that allows the children to be aware of the importance of this storytelling/story-sharing with each other. Whether it be a few phrases shared together to transform the moment, or a small activity done together that starts the storytelling session... create something that is meaningful for you at your setting that sets the mood for respectful listening and that words have value, and that we value each other.
The importance of you, as the educator, putting your agenda to the side, to listen. You are sharing in the learning with the children as equals. You may all be learning different things in the room, but you are all learning. The educator learning about the children from their stories, and not just the teacher creating space for the children to learn.
But we can also look deeper at this... you can be facilitating the children in their learning, and learning from them... and this wisdom can be shared with the children, and also with colleagues and also on a grander scale... as I sit here and write these words now to share with you.
Reciprocity is the relationships, the trust, the empathy... the listening with the heart and mind. And the openness to share.
We need to understand the WHOLE child. All the stories that make up the child. So that when we listen to the child's story we can have a deeper understanding. We can understand how the child is learning and not just what the child is learning (and also to understand that what we are teaching is not the same as what the child is learning... this is why it is important to understand the whole child). This means we need to listen to the context of the child, the time the child is growing up in, the culture, the environment etc... all these stories are going to impact not only the child, but the group and also your ability to listen openly. To be aware of creating storytelling experiences that involve the whole child... not just verbal stories, but through art, song, music, dance etc... all one hundred languages.
The relationship between storytellers and listeners. Between child and adult. Learner and teacher. Finding the connections but also becoming aware of the differences, the biases and prejudices that cloud our ability to listen openly. And the more we truly listen (listen to understand), the easier it becomes to be aware of the hidden bias that has been blinding us to see that world as it truly is... that we have been viewing it through a limited lens or limited set of lenses. It is also the relationship between the story and the storyteller - the stories can evolve... and the stories can help the storyteller evolve as well.
And the story and the listener. Stories are not a one way road of teller to listener.. they are complex and if we allow that complexity into our classroom through time, respect and responsibility then the stories can empower learners and educators alike.
Think about the old saying "The whole is greater than the sum of its parts" and I think this is a fantastic way to see education... instead of dividing it up into literacy, math, science, social and emotional development, etc etc where storytelling often gets put in literacy... start thinking of it in a more trans-disciplinary way... create the synergy of these parts being a whole. The energy that can allow children to explore the world in all their hundred languages.
it is also the synergy of teacher and learner as described in interrelatedness.
So in the up and coming posts I will be giving some examples of storyteling activities I have done over the years... and this thinking... the seven principles of Indigenous storytelling will be the spirit - the guide - the inspiration - for how storytelling should be approached, regardless of its form... oral, written, music, painting, clay, dance etc etc