Monday, September 29, 2008

The Power of Story

Telling Stories
In telling and listening to stories, we discover the power of story comes in the sharing. We recognize something of ourselves in the story told by another. The gift is that stories can be told by anyone. Read on for some reflections on this topic.

On May 8, 2008, The Georgia Humanities Council, in partnership with the Office of the Governor, held the 23rd Annual Governor's Awards in Humanities. These awards go to individuals and citizens described by Gov. Perdue in the event's program as enriching "civic life at the local level" and building "character, a sense of community, and citizenship in Georgia".

Jamil Zainaldin, President of the Georgia Humanities Council(GHC) discusses the theme of story in his column for the organization's Spring, 2008 newsletter. In describing story as a core value of the organization's strategic plan, Dr. Zainaldin states that "stories and ideas help us understand ourselves and others". Elaborating, he says stories "help us know who we are, where we come from, and where we are going. It is also important for us to know the stories of others, as they set the context in which we interact."
Another core value statement in the strategic plan states that "thoughtful discussion and reflection enhance learning experiences". Dr. Zainaldin suggests that communication and community traditions have a role to play in this process.

Georgia Graduation Stories

The power of stories influenced the naming of this blog. The Georgia Graduation Stories blog is where stories can be shared about the journey students make from middle grade to high school. Success and challenges are both part of the story. Students, families, educators, community organizations can all tell their part of the story, and we will grow from what we hear from each other. Going digital in a blog format links the tradition of an art form with the world of new media and provides a familiar and accessible tool for students.

If you have a story to share, contact:

1 comment:

Bill Betzen said...

Dallas ISD has the questionable distinction of having the highest dropout rate (59% to 54% depending on how you count it from the 9th grade) of any city over a million population in the US.

In 2005 our middle school started the School Archive Project with our students writing letters to themselves in which they tell stories from their lives and their plans for the future. They seal the letter into a self-addressed envelope. Then on one day dedicated to "Archiving," they pose for a photo with their Language Arts classmates in front of a 350-pound vault bolted to the floor in our school lobby. It is the School Archive.

After the photo they line up and one by one place their letter onto the shelf for their class inside the vault. The next day they each receive a copy of that photo with details on the back for their class 10-year reunion. They are told of the plans and that they will be invited to speak with the then current 8th grade classes about their recommendations for success. They are warned to anticipate questions such as "Would you do anything differently if you were 13 again?"

This focus onto their own growing life story appears to have helped to reduce the 9th to 10th grade attrition rate at the two high schools most of our students attend by as much as 40% over the past 4 years since the project started. A simple $2 investment per student for supplies involved has never shown a better return! The simple power of story, and a personal history, is the reason for this success. See more details at

All of our students should be given opportunities to record and save their histories in such a manner. It helps them to find their own reasons for school work.