Monday, September 10, 2012

Make Your Stories Matter

by Holly Smith
Cluster Specialist for Business Management & Administration, and Finance

I came across a small article out of Houston about Dr. Shirley Neeley Richardson, advising career tech faculty to talk up their merits and the potential of the district’s new high school scheduled to open in 2014. 
“I want you to go out and tell your stories,” she encouraged.  “Tell your stories.”
How do we successfully tell our stories?  More to the point, how do we tell our stories in such a way that they are stories – interesting and with a depth that makes our audience want to listen?  How do we leave that of the rundown that sounds like the average police report to something more engaging that will make people listen, make them excited to know more?
You tell me you don’t have time to study the art of storytelling just to give a good story to your school board about the CTE program.  While I would argue that storytelling is a worthwhile art form to learn – heck, I basically made this very argument at TCEC this summer with a presentation titled, “Here’s the Story:  How to be the Storyteller in Your Classroom”, there are three tips for making your stories matter that take very little effort to learn and can be applied time and time again for success.
The first aspect a good story needs is drama.  Drama is the heart of a story’s promise.  When you begin a story, you are making a nonverbal promise to entertain, enlighten, or inform your audience.  Drama addresses our basic human needs to be loved, to overcome obstacles, to grow and heal, to make sense of life’s events, to have new or deeper experience, or to grasp a new concept.  When you tell a story, give it some drama.  There doesn’t need to be car chases or overly exaggerated details, just an awareness that your story should fulfill a need for the audience.
Secondly, give your story movement.  Movement means the direction your story takes toward a resolution.  Movement is more than telling someone of your day.  Movement is the lesson you learned your first year as a CTE teacher (across time).  Movement can be what happened when you came from another school district to your current one (across physical space).  If nothing is put into motion in your story, then you aren’t moving toward a resolution; and, no one has a reason to tag along and hear the story.
Finally, a story needs a fulfillment.  Fulfillment is the way in which your drama has moved to a resolution.  There is a clear end to your story with no unanswered questions for your audience.  And, fulfillment doesn’t always imply a satisfactory ending.  Romeo and Juliet had fulfillment; but, we may not all be satisfied with a double suicide ending. 
Dr. Neeley Richardson was absolutely right in her encouragement of telling our stories.  They need to be told.  Districts need to hear our success, our lessons learned, the way our past has led us to our futures.  Following the easy steps of using drama, movement, and fulfillment, people will start listening to us.

For more information on storytelling, please visit our professional development module on the subject at:

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