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Two Types of Tales to Tell

Two Types of Tales to Tell
Emma Hamlin

Once upon a time, when I was a class teacher, we had a transition in the morning that required a lot of movement — we were moving from Circle to Morning Lesson, which meant that the desks needed to be reassembled from the edges of the room into proper rows. This time also meant the students had already been at school for an hour, so it was time for drinks and bathroom. Students were wont to wander, taking their time on the three stairs back to the classroom, dawdling in the cubby room putting water bottles back, and so I began to tell a story, which became a serialized, ongoing saga. It was the tale of the naughty dogs.

Two dogs - Evelyn and Ezra

My husband and I had two medium-sized southern rescue mutts named Evelyn and Ezra, and their adventures were an ongoing source of chaos and frustration that the students relished. A five-minute sharing of their mischief gave us a chance to connect over what rascals they were (like the night when Ezra was sprayed point-blank by a skunk, and each time he sneezed for the next two weeks we smelled the faint perfume), and the students began to hustle back to their seats in time to hear the next installment. It became a moment in our day for the curtain to pull back and for us to connect as people. Eight years later, when the students had moved on to their new teacher, I shared the sad news of the naughty dogs’ passing, and to see the now fourteen-year-old students, who had moved on to worlds of their own, share in the loss brought a sense of reconnection.

Another form that storytelling takes in the classroom is the role of pedagogical stories or stories for social healing. Our playground had a classic New Hampshire stone wall that formed one boundary, and chipmunks used to run in and out as though they too were at recess. On any occasion that the class had a rift in the social dynamic, during rest in the afternoon, I would craft a story mirroring that dynamic among the chipmunks. Robin and Ana were recurring characters who might feel left out of the group, or perhaps one might always have to wait patiently for the other to find quiet in order for the mama chipmunk to speak.

In this gentle fashion, a Waldorf teacher is able to guide without lecturing, allowing the students to infer the lesson without a wagging finger. The simpler the story, the more the message is allowed to shine, and so I encourage parents of first and second graders to explore their own storytelling the next time a little lesson would go a long way.

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