“Make me care…” The Power of Story

“This is a simple story but not an easy one to tell. Like a fable, there is sorrow, and like a fable, it is full of wonder and happiness”
— Cerami and Benigni

The power of a great story can never be underestimated. As co-director and writing coach for the National Blogging Collaborative, I have had the distinct honor to work with teacher writers from all over the country, and one common trend when teachers begin to think about creating a blog or writing a blog post is that they worry, “no one will want to hear what I have to say.” To this I always respond, “You are right; they don’t, but they would love to hear your story.” As Sun Monk Kidd reminds us, “Stories have to be told or they die, and when they die, we can’t remember who we are or why we’re here.”

As children we are enamored with story, in fact, we live for and through it. We learn by it; we tell it; we write it; yet as we grow older, we forget about it, leaving it there on the bookshelf of life, untold, unearthed. More so, as teachers, all too often we fear it, worry that our story doesn’t have value, won’t make a difference, doesn’t need to be heard.

And yet, the story of a teacher is the story of humanity in action, of love personified in ways that are all too easy to forget, too easy to get buried by the media, too easy to go unnoticed. Too often the landscape of education is controlled by voices other than that of the teacher, of the educator, and it is through story that we can change that. Andrew Stanton, writer of movies such as Toy Story and Wall-E, talks about the aim of great story like this: “make me care.” It is that simple; great stories make us care. So as teachers, that is exactly what we must do; we must make people care. Have an issue with ESSA? Tell a story that makes people care. Bothered by school funding? Tell a story that makes people care. Excited with how well your students are performing? Tell a story that makes people care.

Ever since the first time I saw Life is Beautiful, I have adored the quote with which I opened this piece, and in the context of a teacher, it is even more beautiful. Think about your day, your week, your year, or even your career — it is filled with sorrow and it is filled with wonder and happiness. Now more than ever, it is incumbent upon you to tell that story. To share your sorrows, not run from them. To express your wonder openly and with pride. And to exclaim your happiness, the happiness of kids, of learning, of growth, with passion and with love.

As author Ken Kesey once said, “To hell with facts! We need stories!” What story will you share?

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One Comment
  1. Wendi Pillars

    I LOVED that movie, and I appreciate how you linked the quote to your post, Christopher. What makes your approach to telling stories so accessible, is that you remind us how personal our experiences are, and by virtue of that single fact, they come with value. It’s as if you’ve extended an invitation to us all to look at our classrooms and experiences with new eyes, too, with wonder and the full gamut of emotions. Even taking time to record one of those memories makes it all the more worthwhile and helps others realize they’re never alone in what they encounter on a day to day basis.