Every Day is "Tell a Story Day" in a Waldorf School! April 27 2015
We use stories daily in Waldorf schools so it’s a wonderful thing to discover that there is such a day as “Tell a Story Day.”
Storytelling in the Waldorf Curriculum
Children learn deeply and completely from stories and because of this they play a key role in the Waldorf curriculum. Reprimands, dialogue, cautions, or rebukes might appear to be effective, however, it’s really only stories that can school little ones on the great truths of life, the dangers of straying from the path like Little Red Riding Hood, or the high value of staying connected to nature by being kind to living things as in The Crystal Ball.
In the early years the Waldorf curriculum uses fairy-tales, fables, and legends. By grade four Waldorf students are using drama to explore Norse Mythology. In the later grades Greek Mythology, fine literature, and poetry reveal treasured stories such as Percival and Faust. Stories are found throughout the Waldorf curriculum every day.
Even we grownups learn in a deeper way from stories than from other means. Though most of our stories get told through movies these days, it is still compelling to listen to someone tell a good yarn about a funny trip to the supermarket or a dreadful visit from forgotten relatives!
Scheherazade saved her own life in The Arabian Nights by telling a great story every night to her revengeful husband for 1,001 nights. What a wonderful device to tell many stories that particular classic provides! Those stories were particularly adult in content at certain points, too.
A teacher from Ghana once registered his shock at how few stories get told in American schools. “Every child hears many stories in Ghana. How else can children learn?” He asked. “And if a young boy is destined to be a chief? He is told even more stories.”
All parents and teachers know how children adore hearing stories of when we were children ourselves. Teachers can get children to be quiet or to get work done if there is a promise of a story as a reward. Even through high school this remains true.
Storytelling as Tradition
In the Lakota tradition, one of the sacred ceremonies was called “The Keeping of the Soul,” for honoring those who died. At the death of a member of the community, one would volunteer to “Keep the Soul.” This person would refrain from all ordinary daily activity and live in a tipi assembled for the departed soul. Each day the keeper of the soul would prepare food for the soul and members of the community would come to the tipi, sit in the place of honor, bring gifts for the deceased, and eat the food prepared on behalf of the dead. Then the visitor would tell the stories of the life of the lost friend or relative. The mourners laughed and cried at the different stories and then would leave. When all the stories were told of the departed soul, the community would bury all the gifts, burn the tipi and the Keeper of the Soul would re-enter ordinary community life. The soul would then be released, free to then follow it’s spiritual journey. This process of keeping the soul of a departed member of the tribe could take up to a year and depended on how many stories needed to be told. What a glorious way this is to honor the dead, to grieve, and to ensure that everyone who loved a deceased member of a community has a chance to say what needed to be said about the one who passed to ensure complete release!
Storytelling as Therapy
NPR did a series of articles in their news programs following the major earthquake along the San Andreas Fault focused in San Francisco in 1989. They asked people in San Francisco to tell their stories of where they were and what had happened to them during the quake. They asked first a few days after the earthquake; then asked the same people again in six months; then again after a year. NPR reporters noticed that the stories started as frightened, horrified and panic-stricken in the few days following the actual event, six months later, the same people told the stories calmly with a air of amazement at what happened, their own reaction, and at the reactions of other. By a year after the earthquake, the stories were told as humorous, with laughter at how ridiculous the whole thing seemed after a year.
Psychologists on the radio then commented on how therapeutic stories are. They pointed out that this progression of stories helped the people telling the stories to restore their equilibrium, explaining that story telling is healing and helps people to process what they are going through to a wholesome “happy” ending.
So tell a story today, and tell one every day. Tell more than one story if you find one in your daily life and be sure to listen to someone’s story, too.
For our favorite story resources check out the following:
Puck the Gnome
The Sun with Loving Light
Verses and Poems and Stories to Tell or as a PDF
For research and articles about storytelling check out the following:
How to Nurture Storytelling
And How Goliath Stamped...Temperament and Storytelling by Anne Tandree