Where I Went: the narrative piece

Through taking a class on narrative (EC&I 804), I discovered some great resources for the classroom: The Meaning of Respect and The Elders are Watching by David Bouchard and Shin Chi’s Canoe by Nicolla Campbell are some excellent resources that address stories from a First Nations perspective.  Of course, there are many books out there that can serve as wonderful educational resources.

The true power of narrative comes from personal stories, starting with your own and branching out into the stories of others.  I read an excellent article, “An Inescapable Network of Mutuality: building relationships of solidarity in a first grade classroom”, by Epstein and Oyler (2008).  Although on the surface it seemed like a pretty basic premise: a former child-labourer who is now a maid is invited into a classroom to speak about her experience.  Through her retelling, the children are inspired to write and perform a play to help raise money for child-labourers around the world.  For me, the most powerful part of this article was how someone who traditionally has not had much power (a minority member working as a maid in New York), was now given power through the telling of her story.

This became very prevalent to me this fall when I started teaching at a new school.  This school is in an area of high SES.   Having never taught at a school like this, I have spent a lot of time questioning what I bring to the table.  What do I have to offer these students?  It seemed like they had already read all the novels I had planned as doing as a novel study, already done similar art projects to the ones I had planned, and already knew the math that I was teaching them.

I was encouraged to access all of the wonderful community resources available.  Many of the  parents are university professors, teachers, and business owners.  However, I just felt that by only accessing these resources, the students would be hearing stories that they had heard many times before.  These are the stories of those in power who fit in with the mainstream.  I am working to access other resources through immigrant and First Nation interviews.  It is my hope that my students will begin to see a different perspective through this process.

Any thoughts?  How do you teach students to understand that: a) there are different realities out there, and b) those realities might have something to offer them?


Epstein, S. E. & Oyler, C. (2008).  “An Inescapable Network of Mutuality: building relationships of solidarity in a first grade classroom.”  Equity and Excellence in Education, 41 (4), 405 – 416.



Filed under Teaching and pedagogy

3 responses to “Where I Went: the narrative piece

  1. onepercentyellow

    What amazing possibilities you have ahead of you! This piece reminds me of the theatre of the oppressed – a Freirian spin on just that – liberation and empowerment through storytelling and having an audience recognize that story as valid, important and informing. Another option to open up those experiences for your students would be community service-learning. Having hands-on experiences for students tailored to an aspect of their course work and then reflected upon can be a life-changing experience. I have quite a bit of experience in setting up such programs if you’re interested.

  2. My previous school was very similar and I too wondered what I could bring to their world. They had so many experiences inside and outside of school, and had a wealth of background knowledge. What I came to realize was this was an amazing opportunity to really fly and let go. They came to me every day so ready to learn, and they indeed needed exposure to a world outside of their own. I found great success in taking on a year long global citizenship initiative, grounded in the curriculum and lead by the students. We incorporated technology, experts, non-government organizations, other children to not only enrich the curriculum so far beyond a textbook but to also open up the possibilities for our students to actively engage in global citizenship. They were inspired to action, to make a positive impact in the world. In doing so they discovered the stories and realities of people they would have otherwise never met. I wrote more about in this blog post and in this post I have included two great videos about the power of stories.http://tannisteaches.wordpress.com/2011/10/28/a-journey-paved-with-stories/
    If you’d like to chat more just let me know! 🙂

  3. Pingback: Putting It All Together | cschaferteacher

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