Telling Stories

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Today is a good day to look back and celebrate what this week brought us. It’s gloomy and gray outside. Time to find some joy inside.

Thank you Ruth Ayers for creating a space for me to do this on Saturdays.

People tell stories all of the time. We tell stories to make sense of what happens to us. We tell stories to remember what happened. And we tell stories to have fun.

As I cleaned out my classroom this past week, stories began to tell themselves to me. As I dusted off the top of the cabinets, I found cards from a game up there. Just a few, but they told the story of the rainy day game day where someone thought it would be funny to toss a card up there without me seeing. I bet they giggled. I had no idea.

Crawling under the tables and unplugging the computer cords and cables led me to discoveries of notes passed, crumpled and then discarded. Little notes and plans for recess. Secret stories, never told out loud.

Stacking up books inside of boxes led me to stories I tell my students, stories of the lives that can be led when books are a part of your world. I wish this for them probably more than I wish anything else. Be a reader. Find the magic inside of books. It will always be there. You just have to find it.

Clearing up piles of papers reminded me of difficult stories this year. Within the stacks I found office referrals, few in number, but biting and angry, telling stories of times where I failed at handling things in-house. Stories of the times we couldn’t make it work. But we found ways to reconcile. It was never easy. But always worth every ounce of strength and patience and time.

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On the inside of the cabinet in the corner, which serves as my sort-of desk, I tape up inspirational quotes, thank you notes from former students, and need-to-know numbers and bulletins. As I went through them, throwing out ones I no longer need, I found handwritten book recommendations from my dad. This former principal and teacher always used to buy books for my classroom, but he’d read them first, and then leave little notes inside, giving me his thoughts about what kind of reader would like it. I miss him everyday, but seeing these notes makes me smile at the stories we read together, the words I still have from him, the connections we still share through our love of teaching and children’s literature.

Some of the stories we tell aren’t completely true. At a few end-of-year parties I heard stories that I experienced differently than the way they were told. This always amuses me. We love to embellish and retell stories so they grab our audience a little tighter. It is fun to do this, it is a part of being a storyteller. But there was one story that was told that I didn’t recognize. Well, I recognized the beginning. It is a story of how something significant happened at our school. But the teller was revising it and leaving parts out, and adding in parts that never happened. I understand why this happens, it serves a purpose for the storyteller. It fits their narrative. But I was troubled and hurt at being left out. And a little amazed at how far from the truth this story traveled. But I get it. Power is power. We claim it through our stories.

Yesterday, as I neared the finish line of my marathon classroom cleaning, and reflected on the stories bouncing around my brain, it struck me. We can tell any story we like. We can keep it in. We can let it out. We can revise it, change it, but it still exists. And– it is just a story. Truth, revision, retelling– all part of the art of storytelling. My classroom keeps lots of stories within its walls. Some shout out. Some are never told. Many (hopefully many, many) more are waiting to be told. I can’t control how others tell their stories. It doesn’t matter anyway.

I get to live and tell mine.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Telling Stories

  1. I love this post.
    The power of the story teller …and the reworking of the truth as we remember it. Know it well! And I especially loved your remembrance of your Dad’s book recommendations. My father was a crazy reader ( he taught us to speed read when we were just starting school) and we would never receive a book gift that wasn’t already read:)

    • Hey Susan! Thanks for reading. It doesn’t surprise me at all that you come from a family of readers… and how do I not read your blog? I am going to follow it now.

  2. This is a post that should be published somewhere. I loved how you wound through your memories as you cleaned, made comments from your own POV, & you’re right, we all tell our own stories, embellish, revise, and then they become ours, don’t they? I wonder if your students are old enough to hear this from you next fall? It would be a good opening to writing & sharing.

    • Well, thank you Linda! What kind words. I like the idea of sharing it with my students… writing this post was cathartic, and it started out as a completely different piece. As soon as I started writing, it all poured out.

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