Tag Archives: Story

Thinking Stories to Save the World

©Jess Lucas Illustration from The King of Walls, Thinking Stories to Save the World, 2022

I am convinced (some would say over-optimistically) that in one of our classes, right now, today, is the child who will, one day, save the world.

There they are, listening to your input, writing, talking, thinking, looking out the window, messing about. All they need from you is empowerment, education and opportunity. It’s quite some reason for choosing to teach. And for continuing to do so, when the road is rough.

And that’s why the denial of learning is so devastating, so ridiculous, so stupid. Each child in school increases the chance of a better world. Each child is a thriving bundle of intelligence and curiosity, of energy, excitement and potential. Well, each one can be, if we let them.

Religion, poverty, hunger, gender-bias, logistics; the enemies of access.

UNICEF estimates our world tolerates 160 million child workers: some exploited and abused by strangers; some adding neccesary labour to their family’s survival. All denied their right to learning. 129 million girls are out of school, often trapped by tradition and patriarchy; pushed and locked into early roles of service and home-making.

And technically, every child on the planet could learn with a tablet. Satellite coverage, mesh networks, localised energy and an abundance of quality online content, all converge to make this a possibility. But is it a logistical reality? No, no it isn’t. A world that can’t yet coordinate its climate response, hasn’t even managed to put learning in all young hands. Many good folks are trying, I’ve worked with a few, but barriers of finance, politics and geography remain.

So a small part in saving the world, is my third storybook, due (2 years late) early 2022, highlighting issues like those above, presenting themes of vital significance as simple, original thinking narratives.

Thinking Stories to Open Your Mind got children thinking. Surprising Stories to Stimulate Creativity got them creating. Thinking Stories to Save the World has slightly weightier aspirations: contemporary and future challenges presented as quests and journeys, revelations and rebirths, as tragedy, as comedy and through the eyes of monsters and saviours. Tales to signpost the future.

I want all children to have the mindware for grappling with AI, climate change and technology, for thriving in shifting employment and for wrestling with the complex ethics of themes such as data, genetics and geopolitics; gender, equality, migration and wealth.

I want them all to have a chance to save the world and to participate fully in its care. Whether they are fortunate enough to be in school, or not.

7 Billion Stories and How to Hear Them

You don’t know what it’s like to lead a school through a global pandemic unless you’ve led a school through a global pandemic.

– a statement to which many of the leaders with whom I work will relate. And it speaks a wider truth: everyone on Earth has a unique pandemic story to tell. Tales of tragedy and transformation; of reflection, resilience or resignation; of anger, of loneliness; of division and unity; selfishness, cruelty and, thankfully, of kindness.

How to Tell a Story

Look to stories that have already been told to find the kind of narrative you need. Booker’s Seven Basic Plots (2004) is one of many frameworks that makes this easier. Booker analyses thousands of tales and argues for a meta-narrative that describes ‘story’ per se, together with 7 plots that keep on cropping up. Your story will be a combination of these seven motifs:

  • Overcoming the monster – defeating an evil force.
  • Rags to riches – gaining power, wealth, success; loosing it; getting it back.
  • Quest – setting out to acquire an important object; facing challenges and temptations.
  • Voyage and return – visiting a strange land; overcoming threats; returning changed.
  • Tragedy – a personal undoing because of a flaw or a mistake.
  • Comedy – concluding happily after twists, turns and misunderstandings.
  • Rebirth – changing ways (for the better) because of a significant event.

And these themes tell our shared, global story of the last 18 months as well: the quest for vaccines to overcome the devastation of COVID-19; the plot twists and muddles as politics, media, social media and science intertwine; and our rebirths as we return to a world changed forever.

How to Hear a Story

I joked recently with a group of specialist teachers I’m training in coaching skills that there are 5 different kinds of listening:

  • Active Listening – paying full attention to meaning.
  • Dialogic Listening – learning through conversation.
  • Discerning listening – gathering specific information.
  • Pub Listening – waiting for the other person to finish speaking so you can say the thing you wanted to say before they started.
  • Family Listening – two or more simultaneous monologues.

They all have their place but the first three offer real value to the speaker. If you’ve ever been able to just talk freely, confidentially, without judgement and without expectation; if you’ve been heard, really heard, by another person then you’ll know the power of that kind of exchange.

Telling your story and having it authentically heard can be affirming, healing and empowering.

Whose story will you hear? And to whom will you tell yours?