Story power.

Someone was listening.
Someone was listening.

Stories are powerful, and make things stick.

And teachers: it’s okay if you tell stories. Your talk is important, too, when balanced.


I am a proponent of the well-timed anecdote, the personal connection that makes content relatable and relevant.

There’s been a movement, or perhaps a misunderstanding of the new standards, to make the classroom so student-focused it’s lost sight of the other human in the room: the teacher.

Consistent with these NAEP recommendations, the Common Core Standards for Language Arts now call for an “overwhelming focus of writing throughout high school to be on arguments and informative/ explanatory texts” and that the distribution of writing purposes across grades “should adhere to those outlined by NAEP” (NGA/ CCSSO 2010e, 5). This de-emphasis on narrative writing is a mistake.

Gallagher, Kelly (2015-02-28). In the Best Interest of Students: Staying True to What Works in the ELA Classroom (Kindle Locations 1870-1873). Stenhouse Publishers. Kindle Edition.


But here is something we all know – we know we don’t start off in life as “teachers” (at least I didn’t, far from it) but simply ourselves. No matter what we end up doing for a profession, we have our stories first.

The best teachers, doctors, lawyers, salespersons, managers, nurses, CEOs, taxi drivers, scientists, football coaches, and politicians have one thing in common: the ability to connect with people through storytelling. Being able to tell a good story is not a school skill, it is a life skill, and as such, it should be given greater, not less, emphasis. If we want our students to be good storytellers, they need to read and write more narratives.

Gallagher, Kelly (2015-02-28). In the Best Interest of Students: Staying True to What Works in the ELA Classroom (Kindle Locations 1873-1876). Stenhouse Publishers. Kindle Edition.

And if you need more proof that “yes you will use narrative writing in ‘real life,’:

Using Narratives and Storytelling to communicate science with non-expert audiences: Abstract:Although storytelling often has negative connotations within science, narrative formats of communication should not be disregarded when communicating science to nonexpert audiences. Narratives offer increased comprehension, interest, and engagement. Nonexperts get most of their science information from mass media content, which is itself already biased toward narrative formats. Narratives are also intrinsically persuasive, which offers science communicators tactics for persuading otherwise resistant audiences, although such use also raises ethical considerations. Future intersections of narrative research with ongoing discussions in science communication are introduced.

Keywords: persuasion, ethics
From Writing Narratives About Science: Advice from People Who Do It Well by Maryn McKenna: To me the most important tool for telling narrative is time. Not just time within the narrative, which is what allows you to tell the story as a chronology, but time for research and reporting before you begin writing. Really good narratives are grounded in memorable characters confronting difficult problems, and it takes a lot of research time up-front to identify them.

“Confronting difficult problems:”  the mothers who choose not to have their children vaccinated, or the husband who supports his wife during breast cancer treatment, or the teenage girl struggling with an unwanted pregnancy. Real stories, with wide implications. And as we share our own stories, consider the same parameters we provide students: audience awareness, risk taking, language, and intent.

Passing notes in class, 1944

There are many scholarly articles about the use of narrative in multiple professions if you need additional research-based rationale if you’re ‘caught talking during class.’  Balance, of course, is always the rule of the day.

What do you write about when you write as a ‘person’ and not necessarily a ‘teacher person?’