In a classroom setting, local elders tell true stories from their own lives. Some of these stories illustrate ethical perspectives, and wisdom gained; some inspire, and motivate; some show just how much things have changed, and how much they stay the same.
Students discuss content, style, meaning, purpose, and effect of these stories, and work on storytelling technique, presence, and presentation, drawing upon their own lives, for story material. All stories are collected and archived on digital audio tape, copies of which are made available to the school library, for their permanent collection.
• Generate interest, enthusiasm, and insight about storytelling, as an important part of everyday life.
• Foster self esteem, respect, and compassion, and help create meaningful connections between young people and elders.
• Encourage students to identify and value their own true stories, as the raw material from which they form their own unique wisdom.
• Create bi-directional support between school and community
In many cultures around the world, storytelling plays an important role. Stories, like poems and songs, speak to those parts of us that we all have in common. Stories impart information, inspire creative thinking, motivate us towards positive action, and in many other ways, strengthen and enlighten us.
In our society, storytelling is often relegated to the domain of the performer only. Family and community storytelling have become rare and undervalued. We make heroes out of our best storytellers and performers, but often miss the main point of the stories themselves: Every one of us is a hero or heroine with the wisdom, courage, and strength to transform the world.
Throughout most of human history, much of the wisdom was passed along from generation to generation, through the telling of stories. As folks got older, they taught what they had learned to those younger than themselves. Sacred and secular traditions, ethical perspectives, and of course, just plain ordinary information, was handed down around countless fire circles, village greens, and dinner tables.
In today's convenient and sanitized society, we don't seem to have much time for those kinds of things. We remove our elders to a safe distance. Our young people lose access to them. The elders themselves, tend to lose self-esteem and social acceptance, as they enter into a phase of life which ordinarily would include teaching what they have learned. Instead, many elders today face a life with much to say, but no one to hear. Young people can relate to this, as they themselves often have much to say, but no one to listen.
So in this modern age, elders have much to teach us. In many of the true stories I hear from folks in their sixties, seventies, and eighties, I feel a vibrant sense of adventure that comes, I think, from having to create their own experiences. Due in large part now, to the prominence of television and other electronic media, and the fact that so many other of our daily activities have been so neatly prepackaged for us, it seems that we, ourselves, often don't create our experiences as much as we tend to absorb them. By replacing many of life's 'actual' experiences with 'virtual' ones, we may be robbing ourselves and our children of vital opportunities to learn and grow.
Phase 1: Pre-Residency
• During the one to two month lead time for this residency, classes recruit local elders from students' families and from the surrounding community.
• I correspond with these elders to help them prepare for classroom visits.
• Teacher and student guides help classes prepare.
• Teachers may, at their discretion, present related materials.
• Class scheduling takes place.
Phase 2: Residency
• The one-week residency begins with an entertaining and informative storytelling assembly which outlines the program, and introduces Jay to the students.
• Elders visit the classrooms with me. Sessions include stories, presentation of materials, and questions and answers periods.
• Stories are collected and archived on digital media.
• Students work to identify the lessons in their own true stories.
• The week ends with a closing assembly that ties it all together.
Phase 3: Post - Residency
• During the weeks that follow, the school library receives the digital archives of the classroom sessions.
• Elders may be invited back for follow up visits to the school.
• Teachers may choose to organize a storytelling trip to a local senior center.
• A school-wide presentation open to the community can be arranged.