I think I may have had an epiphany yesterday. Now, don’t mock me if what I end up saying is something that it so obvious you already knew it. It was some good learning for me. In a learning session today with John Clarke I learned that our best learning happens when we express our thoughts instead of when we just think them. So I am going to express and see what we all learn.
Yesterday I engaged in a day of learning with fellow administrators. We were involved in sessions that challenged our thinking about how our teachers teach, how our students learn and how we lead. One of the speakers, Dean Shareski (@shareski) talked about the responsibility of story telling. He said that when we talk about the 21st century learners that we are preparing to be our future leaders, we should not discount the importance of story telling as a key leadership skill. Um, pardon? Not collaboration, or problem solving, critical thinking? Not coding, documenting and reflecting, or questioning? Nope. Storytelling.
I had to think about this one. What could it be about story telling that links to leadership? I think we like to learn from people who teach through stories, but isn’t that just because it’s more interesting?
It made me think about some of the stories I’ve learned from. Some stories were from gifted speakers who have used story telling to emphasize a point, like educational speakers, teachers, pastors. Many learning experiences have come from written stories – those in printed texts, visual ones (like a movie) or auditory ones (like a song). What has made each of these learning through storytelling opportunities more memorable than someone just saying “don’t do this because this will happen” or some other wise tidbit?
I think it is because we are both social and egocentric. Socially, I am curious about YOUR experience because it’s interesting to learn about others, but I also want things to be about me. If this learning is going to be important to ME, I need to find ways to connect it to my life and my story.
I think story telling leaders provide this seemingly dichotomous balance to their listeners. They are saying, essentially, “here is a story about me…or Johnny…or Cinderella…here is some message we might get from that, but how that message translates into something meaningful in your own life is what I am leaving in your hands because you are the expert on you.” Great storytelling leaders would then be able to say “But I think what you’ve taken from this is important and valuable to my learning too, so once you figure out your new story from this learning, it will be your turn to be the leader and send us in a new direction.”
Back to my epiphany. Telling a story is the perfect tool to differentiate instruction. You dispense thoughts to be imparted that are then translated and made better by each one of your audience members, each with a unique and highly personal translation. Further, those translations can then be shared to deepen the learning of all again. Huh. Storytelling as reiterative, differentiated, engaging, personal learning.
So if my story here today, as a new version of Dean’s story yesterday, resonates with you, then what does that mean to you? How does story telling fit into leadership? Into teaching? Into learning?