Sunday, July 29, 2012

On teaching storytelling


Last week my storytelling class held their final concert of the semester. It was powerfully moving, watching these storytellers, experienced and new, stand in front of an audience and tell their best. They were great. And they surprised me at the end of the concert, by publicly telling me what they appreciated about the class and my leadership. I was moved to tears.

There is an unfortunate saying, “Those who can, do. Those who can’t teach.” Bullshit. Good teachers, no matter what the topic, combine both skill in the subject and a knack for communication, an ability to translate something they may understand innately into comprehensive steps and process. It’s something to be proud of.

I am proud of the fact that, of late, I am teaching storytelling as much as I am performing. Every single time I teach, I find myself marveling at how much I love the work and what a privilege it is to be able to share my passion for this art, my thoughts on the craft and understanding of how it works, and maybe inspire some new storytellers along the way.

There is something magical that happens each time I teach storytelling. I’ve written before about the magic of telling a story. As a performer, I’m lucky enough to see the audience relax into the story, move with me, inhale the story and turn it into their own. But when I teach I see lightbulbs. Student after student enters the classroom excited, nervous and unsure. At some point they get it, they realize that not only can they tell a story, they have been telling stories their whole lives and that the stories they tell matter. A lightbulb goes off over their head and they are illuminated. Their brows clear, their eye sparkle and they become more animated. It’s amazing and it’s consistent. What’s more, the method I use teaches students to help each other. They invariably are skeptical during the first class, but by the end of the second they are fully engaged and are becoming a community. By the end of the session they trust each other and are ready to go out into the world to tell their tales. 
Over and over, I witness groups of strangers learning to support each other in new ways and blossoming within that support. 

As a performing artist, I have the rare and wonderful opportunity to share my stories with an audience. I can reach across the invisible fourth wall and interact with my listeners. It is an extraordinary thing, telling a story and knowing I have touched an audience, made them laugh, given them something to thing about. 

But when I teach storytelling, my reach becomes greater. Sure, when I perform I am sharing something with an audience of maybe thousands. But when I teach, when I help my students understand the power of their own stories, when I offer them a way to to help others, my reach becomes practically infinite. 

This is part of how I carry on Brother Blue’s legacy. This is part of how I strive to change the world, by helping people tell their stories with more confidence. This is part of what we can do for each other every day, teach what we do best and share what we know.


(c)2012 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License

13 comments:

  1. Wonderful post Laura. I know exact what you mean, my greatest joy is in teaching my students each year. We are so blessed to be doing what we love. Lucky students, lucky you!

    Karen
    www.storybug.net

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    1. You're absolutely right Karen, we are blessed! and lucky all of us!

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  2. Blue is proud of you! And I am too... There's no doubt in my mind you're a fabulous teacher

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  3. Laura,
    Thank you for putting your thoughts and experience down so articulately. This is yet another medium through which your reach is large, and we all continue to learn through your discipline and focus. My light bulb is glowing!
    Lani

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    1. Lani, you are always radiant. Thank you!

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  4. Thanks for saying "BS" to "those who can't, teach." I was raised by teachers and they sure CAN do so so many things. They were artists on many levels and in what little free time they had after teaching and taking more certification courses, they sang in choruses, took parts in community theater, and oh, yeah, raised 6 artful kids.

    So glad you got joy and praise from your good work as a teacher. I think, as someone we both love said, that Storytelling Will Change the World....... you are such a part of that, Laura.

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    1. Teachers are world-shapers and it's foolish to discount them. Thanks, Marni!

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  5. Laura, your storytelling joy shines through with each word, telling joy, teaching joy, breathing storytelling air, the same air that Brother Blue breathed, and with every breath you take he is whispering "Ahhhhh..."

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    1. Thank you, Tony. Your love and support mean the world to me.

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  6. I have friends whom I sent to your course who LOVED it, so I can well believe how beautiful were the tributes you received and I don't have to imagine how well-deserved they were.

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    1. It was powerfully moving, listening to them. Thank you for your confidence in me.

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  7. A wonderful post, Laura. This is very much why I love teaching writing and literature! (Pam from Pyramid)

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True Stories, Honest Lies by Laura S. Packer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
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