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  • Suzanne Axelsson

We are stories

Over the years I have written blogposts where the title has started with "The Story of..." this is in part because I wanted to share my thoughts as my story - just one story of many stories about thinking and being.


My book, The Original Learning Approach is written with a storytelling voice - intentionally writing so that it tells my story of pedagogy, children, play, equality and relationships. I didn't want it to feel like a text book with a load of facts and truths - but the sharing of how I understand things with the openness that how it is interpreted through reading might change to meet the needs and understandings of the reader.

I write about knowledge in my book as some that is not just a product but a process too - and it is in this process that the story exists. That all our stories exist.

Knowledge does not always remain the same - it frequently changes as it interacts with new knowledge and new circumstances - the same for ourselves - we change and evolve - what we know, what we like, what we can do or can't do changes as we learn things, practice things or gain new preferences.


For instance my entire life I viewed myself as if neurotypical, and the struggles and the quirkiness often felt like inadequacies and frustrations... recently I received my diagnosis as Autistic (although I have suspected/known for a much longer time, since my son received his diagnosis about a decade ago) - now I can interpret my own story differently - the times I didn't go places, or left early, or the struggles with depression can now be seen as normal autistic responses when trying to exist on the story rhythm of a neurotypical person. My story has my own pace, and when I let it unfold naturally there is more joy, creativity, risk taking and more importantly well-being. It's not that I am slower, because sometimes my mind works much faster than those around me, it's simply differently paced. We all have moments of quiet, order and slow (and I am talking about the pace we live and think not necessarily physical speed and sound), where we need to feel unhurried so that we can truly experience the whole, feel good, notice what we need to notice and have the time to creatively rework things to align organically with ourselves.... we also have moments of noise, chaos and speed - where we are full of ideas that need to be tested now, of curiosity that demands to be itched and daring that requires thrills... and sometimes we find flow between the two. Problems arise when we get stuck in the quiet and forget to dare enough to find flow (and flow is a personal thing) and also if we get stuck in chaos.

I also think it's problematic when calm and being unhurried is seen as the opposite of creative, or when being busy is glorified - it can encourage people to feel ashamed of their own pace (because externally/by others it does not seem like they are being effective) and encourages them to remain in a state of extended busyness that is not healthy for anyone - simply put we are often forced to tell our own stories with the words/rhythms of the norm - and I reckon that it is actually a minority of society that thrives by living a normative story. I believe that the only way we can change this is through education.

And that it will, sadly, be a slow process.

Of teachers that are powerful in their own story and trust in the stories of others, encouraging children to listen and value each other - and not just teach facts or a curriculum. Of those children leaving the education system with an appreciation of all the multiple stories and demanding that there are more educators out there for their children to be taught the way they were taught - so that eventually an education rooted in equity, care, play and knowledge as stories (where its more than facts, but an understanding, and that this is relevant and meaningful to the context - not a one size fits all approach that ignores cultural and geographical, climatic etc differences).

The story of education has been about control - looking back to the very first schools - to ensure the poor were able to work efficiently in factories, to educate away cultures, identities and histories that could threaten the status quo of the ruling elite, to "fix" children. Seldom have they really been about learning, discovery, creativity because curriculums demand teachers to teach specific things, in specific ways, at specific times and then test them in a specific manner. There are many educators who seek to make this system as palatable as possible, to provide space for individual stories to be told as a collective - because that is what a community is, people bringing their stories and weaving them together.

There are still too many children afraid to be themselves, and act out the normative story or make themselves invisible to avoid harm (physical, emotional or psychological). Until schools learn how to create an education that allows ALL children to learn as themselves, to value the myriad stories and to learn how to create community stories then it is not the children that are failing school - it is the system that is failing the children.



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