Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Power of Storytelling

Great storytelling and great storytellers have the opportunity to rule the world.  We use storytelling to connect to each other on a different level.  When we were young we wanted a story before we went to bed, when we were in school we wanted the teacher to hear ours, and as adults we convene at restaurants, bars, and reunions to revisit the times that made us most happy.  We remember what we want to, and the connection to the positive things that happened to us drive those conversations.  The last minute wide-open jump shot to win the
game in high school has turned into a fade away, from the corner, over three people, from our knees.  Even revisiting difficult times with your friends often results in how it made you better as a person, or grew as a family or group.  We thrive on storytelling and look for any opportunity to share our perspective.

We want to hear great stories.  We want to invest in great stories.  There is a reason pregame shows before big events conduct mini movies on members of the teams taking part in the contest.  Last weekend was the NCAA Final Four.  The network access to players, coaches, and families was unbelievable.  Superbowl coverage starts 6 hours before kickoff and is watched by ridiculous amounts of people.  We want to hear their story.  We want to connect with them, and those in charge of programming know that this is the way to higher ratings and more exposure.  When an Internet video goes viral, you will often see talk show hosts and news stations lining up to interview the individuals and have them tell their story.  To desire that connection is human and derived by emotion.  We look for the story because we want to connect, and the emotion of the stories gives us that connection.

The greatest stories in the world are real…and many of them are happening in our schools.  In Fall Creek, Wisconsin, we are able to hear over 800 stories everyday in our school.  The melting pot that is our public school system could lend itself to the most incredible stories the world has ever seen.  However, the work that is done in classrooms, hallways, gyms, and auditoriums is often only shared with those who attend.  We hope for our kids to go home and tell the story of school.  We hope our families run into our teachers outside of school to have conversations about what happens in our schools.  We hope a lot, and hope is good, but the power of storytelling can’t be left to hope.  We need to promote the narrative that drives the great stories of kids.

We live in a true attention deficit society.  NBC does not promote Must See TV anymore because must see is on our time.  We are able to watch full seasons of television shows, download radio podcasts, and aggregate the stories from publications that fit our needs…on our time.  Take a look at someone as they check their phone for information.  If something doesn't catch their eye right away, what happens?  Their phone turns into a Roulette wheel and the emphatic scroll begins.  Our stories have to grab the attention of the public and engage them in the wonderful things kids do in our school.  In effect, we are storytelling through 140 characters, an Instagram picture, or a Facebook post.  We are utilizing those spaces to make tell micro stories in an effort to highlight the amazing work of kids.  This also helps us build social capital with our stakeholders and take them along for the ride that is education today.

Essentially, we can feel however we want to about the change in society.  We can feel like the ills of the world are blamed on the idea that we no longer sit at a table and tell stories to those around us.  We can feel as though technology is taking over the world and people don’t engage in meaningful conversations anymore.  The reality is meaningful conversations take place all the time…they just happen in smaller pieces and on our time.  I was on a Voxer conversation this week with 8 people who I consider true friends.  I have only met half of them in person.  Our conversations lasted hours, but in 1 or 2 minute blocks and on our time.  We shared great stories…in a medium that allowed us to connect when we could.  Better or worse, I don’t know.  Different? Absolutely. 

Families in our school want to connect, but they want to do it on a schedule that fits them.  There is nothing wrong with that because at the end of the day it is not about the time of the connection, but whether or not it happens.  We need to look at time as a commodity…one that we can harness, but not control.  Parents and community members will engage in what we do if we give them the opportunity, but do not force the issue of time on them.

A picture, video, post, call, or text all can have a profound impact on emotions.  Great stories find where emotion lives, and deliver something impactful in that area.  The world has, and will, belong to the storytellers.  We have 800 in this school, and all with the desire to have their voice heard.  When they don’t have the medium, we should provide the opportunity.  When we do, everyone has a chance to come along for the ride.  Go Crickets.