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TSS: The Art of Storytelling

July 31, 2011

The Sunday Salon.com


With so much concern on the failing school systems, everyone is out for the ultimate change. I am a huge objector to the lovely system we all know as standardized testing. It’s not that testing is somehow bad. The problem is that it just doesn’t seem to be the best manifestation of learned knowledge. Now, perhaps that’s not true. Maybe for math and science it’s a fine way to qualify and quantify and education system.

Of course, you could all probably write this post for me. Not that you’d need to agree but I’m sure there is no secret to where it’s going, by now. I’m a reader, a  writer, a storyteller and a talker. I think that so much is lost when we simply ask students and our culture as a whole, to regurgitate information that needs to be thought about, mulled over and seriously considered. Literature should be “tested” in term essays, class discussions and copious amounts of verbal action.

Filling in bubbles will hardly do.

And here’s the thing: they’ll hardly do our society any good, I fear.

The problem is that we are a society that has always thrived on storytelling and the passing of histories.  When we boil down our social studies, histories, literature and, yes, even our maths and sciences (hello, where do you think new theories come from?) I fear that we lose the active process of creation and development.

So what’s with the doom and gloom on a lovely Sunday morning? Well, I have to say that we don’t start out squashed. At least not all of us. Stories are still very much alive and well in so many of our hearts, young and old.

My favorite storyteller, of course, is my son, Kai. At three and a half, he is an animated and enthusiastic orator. No doubt we’ve encouraged this (I, the political science major, my husband the film major) but he’s taken off with flying colors. Today, while, you guessed it, waiting for our weekly story time date, he sat at the coffee shop, writing in one of my lined notebooks. He produced quite an intricate story about himself as a rescuer of tigers. The tiger and the tiger’s baby girl (named Hunter), had their own story lines worked in.

Now, he’s my son and I’m proud of his art and his stories. But, truly, if pressed, I’ll readily tell anyone that this is seriously typical of kids who have not been hindered by adult contraints.  I see it every day at school, at story time, at church, at the park. It is so important, to me, but I’d like to think the world, too, that we foster creativity in young minds, in three year olds, thirteen year olds and thirty year olds. I know I won’t, myself, knock down testing in favor of universal classroom discussions, dioramas and elementary school book reviews. A girl can dare to write her own story, though, right?

9 Comments leave one →
  1. July 31, 2011 9:29 am

    Good for you, mom. You are spot on. Creativity, yes.

    Here’s my Sunday Salon for this week:
    Sunday Salon: How to Read, Use, and Abuse Beautiful and Pointless Novels Like a Professor

    And a reminder: Today is the last day for you to throw your hat into the ring for my July Giveaway! Win a $25 Amazon gift card!

  2. July 31, 2011 10:57 am

    Oh, yes! Creativity encouraged and nourished is a wonderful thing! Let’s not lose it when we need it so desperately. Nice post!

    Here’s MY SUNDAY SALON POST

  3. July 31, 2011 11:22 am

    I also hate standardized testing, and with two kids in high-school, it’s a constant problem to get them to think past the boxes that their schools want them to think in. Right now it’s the FCAT, and I could write you a hundred word rant about why this test and preparation for it chaps my behind, but instead, I will tell you that I promote avid reading at home, and am always picking books up for my kids that I think they will love. My son is also a boy who will sit in his room for hours and make up fabulous stories that require months and months of research on different cultures, religions, and societies, and my daughter will sit in front of the television and draw and paint the things she sees there, so all is not lost, but I can’t help but think that the school system could do more to further the creativity of not only my children, but all the others as well.

  4. July 31, 2011 4:56 pm

    Totally agree with you! Such a shame that politicians can’t see beyond quantitative measures…

  5. July 31, 2011 6:01 pm

    Creativity is so important and we do so much to hinder it. For me, the biggest problem with standardized testing is that schools teach to the test.

  6. July 31, 2011 6:28 pm

    I remember when we used to teach, and encourage, this type of creativity. I still have some of the writing my kdg students did back then. Beyond being creative, we also taught children that their thoughts and opinions mattered. We believed in fostering, guiding, leading.

    It frightens me to think of our future leaders…

    • July 31, 2011 6:34 pm

      Yes! I think that honoring “creativity” is another way of saying each child’s thoughts count. Our school is based on a Reggio Emilia inspired theory and it really focuses on the ways in which kids are able to create their own educational paths. It cracks me up when people ask “but how do they cover what they NEED to for standards”. Thing is, they’re all ABOVE the standards when we asses!

  7. July 31, 2011 10:00 pm

    Amen to everything you said!!

  8. August 1, 2011 9:36 pm

    Things have gotten worse since No Child Left Behind; it seems this also means “no child gets ahead.”

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