So, I’ve been thinking about storytelling and institutional memory. I’ve been thinking about these ideas for a couple of reasons.
I am a big fan of story telling. I see it connect my family. I see it connect my friends. I see it connect my class and mold it into a community rather than just a bunch of people who come together every Tuesday at 9:08. Now that I am part of the administration team, I am thinking about stories and the larger school institution.
First, the ETMooc course that I participated in (not very whole heartedly I am sorry to say) spent time on (digital) storytelling. I’ve written about this before and I made a little glog as a story.
Second, there was an article in the New York Times called The Family Stories that Bind Us by Bruce Feiler. In it the Dr. Feiler reviews some research that shows that children who know their families stories, especially their big master story (we’ve always worked hard, we always have each other, etc) are better able to deal not just with setbacks, but trauma.
The article also references Jim Collins‘work on moving from “Good to Great.” Collins spoke at last year’s NAIS (National Association of Independent Schools) conference where the theme was “Revolutionary traditions: think big, think great.”
See how this is all coming together in my brain?
Well, my school has several people who have so much institutional memory; they are gifts to the community. They know all the details, but they also know the stories. And, we have a few new colleagues in key positions who have to get to know our stories.
Anyway, this all got me thinking about schools and stories.
- What stories can and should we tell students about ourselves as an institution?
- How might the bigger school stories help provide some academic resiliency for our students?
- Is that story about the great buzzer-beater shot that went in what we are looking for?
- And, what do we do when we change as an institution in some significant ways?
- How can we maintain the connections to the values in our core stories while recognizing that times have changed?
Extrapolating out from the article, which may or may not be a good idea, makes me think that not only are the stories that we tell about our school’s history important, but that by grouping these stories and drawing out themes of courage and grace (our motto is Courage for the deed; grace for the doing), determination, compassion, service, we can create a strong thread that will not only bind us together, but connect us to our history. Times may change and some of the old stories make us cringe a little (am I just thinking of my family stories here?), but if those big ideas are still being articulated through our stories, then we should be able to recognize the early version of who we would become.
Now, when do we do that?