I started my storytelling career sometime around 1979 or 1980. In 1984 I was accepted into the Artists In the Schools Program of the Eastern Oregon Arts Council. I was offered a two week residency in Hermistan. Then another two weeks. Then another. THEN ANOTHER. Wow. I was in heaven. Then… I got a two week residency in Elgin, and another in Prairie City.
But that wasn’t the end of it – two more residencies in Hermistan. Four months of residencies!
This was going to be fun.
There was only one problem – I had never taught before, not in ‘real’ schools, anyway.
And guess what? My very first school was Junior High.
I arrived on the first day fully expecting participation.
I didn’t get it.
Our first order of business was Personal Experience Stories. I told the students a little about myself and asked them to tell me about themselves.
Not. One. Hand. Was. Raised.
So… I talked all day long. Five classes. I told them about myself. I told them stories. I didn’t know what else to do.
I went home that night (more about my lodgings later), fell into bed and wondered whatthehell I was going to do.
So I gave up. My first day and I was a failure. I thought, “If they won’t talk to me, then they’ll just have to write their stories.”
I made the announcement in the first class of the day. The kids looked at each other as if to say “What? We have to write – we have to work?”
The first hand went up. “I got a dog. He likes french fries.”
And so it began. All the classes followed suit and the storytelling began. Oh, wait. All the classes except one.
This class was their teacher’s favorite. They were oh, so quiet and polite. Too quiet and polite for my tastes. They chose to write their stories. I did manage to get them riled up several times during the course of the two weeks, though, and we had some fun together.
I still didn’t know what I was doing, but I’m an improviser. I figured each day would take care of itself.
And it did – with a little help from my friends. More on that in a few weeks.