Wednesday, September 17, 2014

My Story, Our Story

By Stephanie Bartlett

As I think deeply about the threads that I could use to begin weaving the fabric of this new school year, the idea of stories seems very appropriate. Early in September, my pace is slow and my vision is big and far-reaching, in a friendly sort of way.  I feel like I won’t be able to achieve my goals in my Kindergarten class this year if I don’t slow down and pay attention to the story...or the many stories that will create the whole of our experience together.
And so it begins with the self. With me. With my story. That is the easiest concept for a five year old to grasp. David Loy writes that stories “teach us what is real, what is valuable, and what is possible. Without stories there is no way to engage with the world because there is no world, and no one to engage with it because there is no self” (Loy, 2010 p.3). So, we will take the time to carefully and thoroughly create our world in the classroom by telling our stories. I am picturing our morning gatherings. Cloudy, grey morning outside but inside, there is a hush as we gather  with our bodies leaning forward, eyes bright as we focus on the person who will share their story and an important picture that day.The image fills me with anticipation and warmth, and I hope my students will feel the same. That there is no place that they would rather be. 
Once we begin to weave our collective tapestry, we will move into our story. If “ to ‘settle’ a wild place means to create not only houses and farms but also the stories that will make [the aboriginals] a home” then to ‘settle’ our classroom in September means to give meaning and value to the stories that happen in our surroundings as we build our sense of community (Loy, 2010, p. 8). Each child in our class is inherently valuable to the whole and will play an important part of who we will “be” as a group. How we will be together as a collective group? What will matter to us? I hope to guide my students towards caring for our community and our environment yet I haven’t discovered what is important to my students, so I can’t predict what direction this will take. I do  know that we will take care with our story. What stories will we create together on our journey? What else will we discover that really matters to us enough to tell the story? The image of “stories all the way down” fills me with anticipation as I wonder about the different layers of stories that we will discover and create together (Loy, 2010, p. 5). The idea of the classroom as a narrative will hopefully encourage the children to all become storytellers and creators of stories in their own right. All kinds of stories.
Stories are about the process. The good, the bad, the happy, the sad, the triumphs and the failures. Yes, the failures. That is how we learn, develop and grow. It takes the idea of “I can” statements to a deeper level as students fill their portfolios with stories and pictures that document the story of learning and the bumps along the way.

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