Where Do Stories Belong?

I used to believe that a story only belonged in personal narrative, realistic fiction, or a creative genre of sorts.

Wait…I don’t think I actually ever BELIEVED that to be true. I think I may have just lost my way at one point. Regardless of that little detour I now feel, more than ever, that stories belong everywhere. This feeling also strengthens my belief that sometimes we need to step outside of our beliefs to really strengthen those that are worth holding on to.

If there’s any electricity in the writing, it runs on the current of narrative.

~Lester Laminack

This quote reminds me that any time I am reading articles, information writing, or professional resources I am drawn in by writing that tells me a story. When the author is able to connect the topic to a life experience or memory it creates a sense of reality that most readers can relate to. I enjoy fiction but as a reader, I am actually more drawn to non-fiction. However, I still find that the works that keep my interest are those who run “on the current of narrative.”

Human minds yield helplessly to the suction of story.

~Jonathan Gottschall

If this is true, what Gottschall says, wouldn’t it also be true that we would yield helplessly to knowledge when shared in a story form? Wouldn’t this also mean that when teaching students to write information pieces, encouraging them to blend story and information together would pull their audience in such a way they would not be able to look away? Isn’t that what we want? Yet, what sometimes we find ourselves doing is based on a formula.

Statement + Reasons + Evidence = [Full Credit]

Or

Statement + Facts + Summary = [Basically a regurgitation of what the student read in his research]

I am guilty! I have subjected students to this way of thinking and gotten exactly the result I show above. I was able to check things off on a rubric and felt like my students were successful. Where were the independent thoughts? Where was the creativity? I began to realize this when all the students started to look the same. We might initially think, great, I see evidence of my teaching here. This might be true. But do we really want to create a room full of robots who can spew out evidence and facts without thinking and reacting to them? Do we really want students to remove themselves from their topics and tell us what we want to hear? Is the meaning of success looking like everyone else or is the meaning of success looking like a more informed version of ourselves? When we allow students to learn, read, digest, think, and react to new information what they pour out onto the page is much more passionate and self-driven. I want to develop students who write stories driven by what motivates them. I want them to choose topics that stir them up inside, break their hearts, or makes them feel more alive than they did the day before. I plan to spend the entire school year finding the stories that drive young writers. Finding the threads of narrative that can be woven into any genre. I hope to give students time to explore and create without feeling the pressure to be experts from the get go. This is my challenge. This is my passion. This is my project.