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Year Nine at Rangitoto

March 6, 2018

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Rangitoto College is the largest secondary school in Auckland: 3000+ students Year 9 – 13 from 60 countries. These kids study from 12 different curriculum departments including 4 years of creative arts: graphic arts including photography and sculpture, dance, drama and theater, music: choirs, instrumental ensembles, bands, an orchestra…sigh. I remember student teaching in a similar school in the US – over fifty years ago. I have not been in another since.

So – it was doubly fun to perform for the Year 9 students (13 – 14 yrs). These students chose to take these courses; no sullen, reluctant faces. They were bright and energetic. Sensing their enthusiasm, I juggled stories at the last minute. I decided to first share a story about my daughter when she was their age. I described the dust-ups we had – and her success years later. Later, I asked what images or pictures they had seen as I told the story – and hands shot up.

That’s the first level of connection we storytellers reach for. We want listeners to enter into our stories through their imaginations: to see and hear and smell and touch and to emotionally identify – to feel – for and with the characters of the story. But our task goes deeper.  Then I asked: while listening to this story, did you remember a story from your own life? It took a few minutes of discussion; some students thought their own stories had to mirror mine. But when I assured them that no, any remembered event was fine,  several students stood up and told brief but solid stories of their own.  If, as a storyteller, you can get your audience to participate in your story and, at the same time, remember one of their own – you’ve done it. You’ve reached the second level….

The students asked such good questions – and listened to the answers. We spoke – with feeling – about the superb speeches made by the students of Parkland, Florida following the massacre. Looking into those earnest, lively faces, I felt a deep joy – and a new hope.

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