Friday, January 17, 2014

Steeping in Havoc and Mayhem - or - What Did I Learn This Week?

(Falling water tea from my Teaposy)

I Love Being a Storyteller!  

I had great shows this week.

I relearned tons of things I already knew!

I learned tons of things I don't even realize I learned!

I had adventures.

I had challenges.

What I'm steeping in this week…

I told at an International Montessori school on Monday.  I saw the K - 3 group.  I heard a fantastic story about a family who has a seven-year-old girl.  The girl is best friends with a boy born in South Africa who has a brother from Mexico in a family where the husband is Italian and the mother is French.

The little girl got in the car after school one day and said, "Sit Down!"  (Apparently that's what they say in their family when someone has earth shattering news.)
Her mother said, "What?"
She said, "Did you know my friend was adopted?  Can you believe that?"
Her mother, trying not to laugh, says, "Really?"
"Yeah, but don't tell dad.  I want to spring it on him at dinner."
Almost a year later this same little girl gets in the car and announces, "Mom, Sit Down!"
Her mom says, "What?"
The little girl says, "His brother is adopted too!"

                                         (My biracial children in the holiday pageant many years ago)
                                           (Neither is adopted.  Just like the whole color scheme)

I relearned that if we don't tell them otherwise, children see the world through the eyes of love.  It is a place where color neither matters nor has any implications.

I had a small show with a group of  about 100 sixth graders.  Ten minutes into the first tale I made the sound of a door opening very slowly.  It is a pretty cool sound.  The kids loved it.  One kid off to the left made an approximation of the sound very loudly.  I glanced over.  The smile on his face and the shine in his eyes, and his utter lack of acknowledgement that his peers were shushing him told me all I needed to know about this young man.  I have told with many autistic kids in the past twenty six years.  Sometimes the experience is a catastrophic fail on my part, and sometimes it works out all right.  This young man had been staring around until I made that sound.  For the next half an hour, he not only mimicked any sound effect used in the story, but started making sounds when the pitch of my voice changed.  His peers were trying to ignore him, but they were starting to get annoyed.  He was also mimicking the larger movements of my hands.  In the end, I didn't make some of the more obvious sounds so that he wouldn't be shushed by his peers.  Didn't matter.  When I didn't make the obvious sound, he did!  He knew what was supposed to be happening!  When the story was over, I changed the last tale from my version of The Debate in Sign Language to the Monkey's Heart.  I announced that he and I would be telling together, and I launched into it.  That young man and I spent the last ten minutes of that story set chattering, howling and yelling in unison.  It was great.

I relearned how to listen.  I relearned that stories can be experienced in many different ways.  I relearned what it was like to see pure joy on the face of a new story listener.  I relearned how to meet the audience wherever they are.

Had my first encounter with a Leadership school.  These were inspired by Stephen Covey.  They use his philosophies to teach children how to be successful.  His quotes are all over the school.  You might know him for the book, 7 Habits of Highly Successful People.  The school was interesting.  Right before I started the show for the third through fifth graders, every single classroom teacher left the multipurpose room, leaving me with four other adults and 450 students sitting criss cross applesauce on the floor.  We had a great show, but the kids took slightly longer than they should have to come to quiet after each exciting event.  Well, what can you do?  There were no real restraints anywhere!  I know teachers are pressed for planning time, and this is when they could have it, but the third through fifth grade teachers at that school didn't have the chance to use any of the language building or vocabulary we played with in the assembly in their classrooms…they don't even know what it was.  They won't be able to talk help their kids unpack things…they don't have slightest idea what happened.  The show went well, and it was fun, but I left thinking to myself that for a school that prides itself on Leadership, it sure didn't make a great deal of sense for all the adult leaders to leave!


I relearned that we can't see the forest for the trees sometimes!  I learned that at a Leadership School, the kids take initiative!  I learned that at a Leadership school, two kids are assigned from each class to approach a visitor and offer a handshake.  I learned that at a Leadership school, the kids are taught how to stand up, speak their names, tell their grade level and then ask their questions, or offer an answer…very impressive.  I learned that at a Leadership school, any kid can approach and offer a handshake or a word of thanks after a show.  I relearned that it is good to carry hand sanitizer in my purse.

What did you learn or relearn on your storytelling journey this week?

Happy Listening!

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