Student Storytellers

May 20, 2010 at 7:04 am 1 comment

Today is performance day for my 34 student storytellers, grades 4 and 5. It’s been a year-long residency — my 9th year with this school.
In January small groups of kids formed a lunchtime troupe. Each of the student storytellers in the troupe invited 3 or 4 classmates to join them for lunch in the school library. During lunch they performed their stories for this audience. Results were mixed — it was a first-time telling for most of the kids, they didn’t believe me when I told them to practice was a good thing, and there were a lot of nerves showing. No problem — it was a growing experience.
During the January tellings I noticed 4th grade Joey was literally shaking right out of his t-shirt. He was so nervous his little body was quivering. But ….. Joey did not give up. We talked about it later. He knew he was nervous; he recognized a few performance/story errors; he recognized he had indeed survived the experience; he was not giving up.
Troupes of 3 kids have each performed twice this month in classrooms, 20 minute story breaks. Joey came up to me with a smile before his first classroom telling. “Mrs. Black, I’m the last teller in my troupe. It’s my job to thank them for listening. How should I do that?” 
Well, Joey’s grown a lot since January. Teasingly I told him, “Joey, why don’t you just say ‘thank you’ and then give a bit of a swirl with your hand and bow. Be loose. Be relaxed. They’ll love ya.”
You already know what happened. Joey performed with his troupe. The listeners smiled and laughed in all the right places. Joey’s troupe was thrilled with their success. They did a little Q & A; their younger listeners wanted to know all about the life of a storyteller. Then it was time for Joey to offer the thank you. Yep — he said it simply, acknowledged the audience and his fellow tellers, gave a bit of a swirling hand that ended with a bow, and Joey was out the door.
“I did it, Mrs. Black! I did it. I wasn’t nervous at all!” and then “What should I do when I thank them next time?”
That’s my Joey. No longer quaking in his t-shirt. Nope. He’s ready for more. His shoulders are back, his head is held high, he’s got a smile on his face, he can face an audience and maybe, just maybe, whatever else might come along that makes him question his ability.
Today larger troupes perform for 45 minutes for ~100 students (an entire grade level) in the school library. Each time they have performed in a classroom they have come back beaming with pride. They’ve also figured out on their own what they need to do to make their story even better. So, my day today is to be there — cheering them on — for six 45-minute performances. Truth be told, there’s no where else I’d like to be.
Wish ’em a fun day. I won’t ask you to wish ’em luck — no need — they are READY!
And one more thing. When the day is done you just might find me inclining my head in their direction, bending a bit at the waist, bowing.
Webster says to bow shows veneration. Yep. That’s the word I’m going with. Veneration — profound respect by virtue of dignity and character.
Some people think all we were doing these past few months was learning to tell stories. Those 34 kids and I know it was so much more.


Entry filed under: Teaching Artist.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Lainie  |  May 20, 2010 at 2:17 pm

    Yay you! Yay them! And you’re right. The performance is the victory lap. The real stuff is what’s happened in your work together…


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