The Power of Story
When we think about our Student of the Year celebration, what comes to mind? Although there is a beautifully decorated room, tons of good food and fellowship, it is always the stories that leave us the most moved and inspired. Tales of our students’ resilience, perseverance and success despite insurmountable challenges are what empower us as educators to continue the work we do despite our own perceived barriers. It is the power of story that can truly be our best asset in advancing our mission as Adult Educators and advocating for our students and programs.
Anyone who is in the “communications” business will tell you that stories sell. They sell products, newspapers-- even political candidates. How many of us have favorite stories of friends and family we never tire of? No matter how many times we hear them, we still have the same reaction-- the endorphin rush, the belly laugh. Stories evoke the best and worst of the human spirit. They bring out the rawest of human emotions. How many have read a story on-line of a stranger doing a good deed and thought “my faith in humanity is restored”? They make us all want to cheer for the underdog (RUDY! RUDY!) Our students all have stories. We all have stories. How are we telling them? To whom are we telling them?
Even science is starting to examine the power of storytelling. Neuroscientist Paul Zak, Ph.D., author of The Moral Molecule: The Source of Love and Prosperity, discovered through his research that stories, when told well, release oxytocin, the neurochemical that tells the brain it’s safe to trust someone. Oxytocin is often called the “love hormone” because of its role in creating human connection and empathy. Stories can unite us.
As Adult Educators, we are our own biggest advocates. We need to be. We have all the resources we need. We have students, we have voices. Those stories have the power to shine a light on the work we do. Are you using the power of your students’ stories to promote your program? The impact of Adult Education on its learner’s lives can be the single biggest advertisement for our programs. Have we used our students’ voices to attract other learners?
As we continue to work to advocate for additional resources to support our programs how can student voice help us? Our District leaders, our State Education Department and our elected officials need to hear first-hand how our programs have impacted the lives of our learners, and see the innovative programming that is happening. This should occur more than once a year. We are fortunate that we live in an age where the power of technology allows us to harness this power rather easily. Social media, and avenues such as YouTube allow us to post stories and testimonials with everyday devices many of us carry in our pockets.
Additionally, student voice can guide us in our own work. Creating a student-centered process to guide our program improvement work can create a culture of success for both educators and students alike. Often, we find ourselves thinking we know what our students want and need, rather than asking them. By engaging our learners in the improvement process we can ensure that their voices help us design an environment primed for success.
In the coming months and at our 2019 conference, NYACCE hopes to be at the forefront of this movement and can introduce some important technology to those who need assistance. We look forward to the power of your story!