Come Tell Me a Story
Val Rathjen, Community Learning Network
As far as I am concerned, one of the best activities of the summer is sitting around a campfire with friends and family. Something magical happens as we sit in the dark and let go of the business of the day, and it often involves story.
Stories have long been a tool used to share ideas, to impart wisdom, or to provide an opportunity for connection and laughter. Since my father passed away, one of the things I miss the most is his stories. Tales of growing up on the prairies with a house full of fun-loving brothers and sisters. Lessons learned while plowing a field or helping a new calf into the world. I miss the pauses that often provided space for the wisdom of 98 years to pour out. Ah yes, what I wouldn’t give for one more campfire and one more story.
But stories are not just reserved for home and family, they can also play a role in the work we do with learners, and within our organizations as a whole. Stories can be a way to celebrate successes, learn from mistakes, share vision for the future and mark the impact of the past.
Stories can be powerful when we are working with learners. They provide the opportunity to connect and build relationship and can be a way of marking their learning journey. Capturing a learner’s story, in their own words, can be transformative, and taking the time to listen and engage with their story helps validate their experience. You could even record these stories and publish them as a way of honoring the different voices that make up your community. Years ago, Bow Valley College did just that, maybe this would inspire you and your organization: SARAW Book of Stories (https://centreforfoundationallearning.files.wordpress.com/2016/04/saraw-storybook3.pdf)
Taking the time for stories can also benefit your staff and organization. I would encourage you to make time to sit together with your team, or with your volunteers & board, and share some stories from the past year. Reflecting and sharing these stories together provides the opportunity to connect and value all those who are a part of making your program thrive. You may also be surprised to hear what was meaningful to different members of your organization.
Maybe these prompts will get you started:
- What are you celebrating?
- What went really well this last year?
- How did your organization impact the lives of learners?
- How are you making a difference in your community?
By the way, our funder – Advanced Education – also values a good story. In section H of the Annual Report, you are asked to identify a success, to share a challenge, and to paint the picture of the impact your organization has by sharing a learner story.
We are fortunate; Community Adult Learning Programs have a front-row seat to some of the most amazing stories around. The learners that we work with are full of experiences, wisdom and that overcomer spirit, and CALPs have a passion and dedication that is beyond compare. So, let’s take time to step back, push pause, and share those stories.
Here’s your invitation – come sit around the campfire and let the magic begin!
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