Teaching for Change | The Story Behind the Story
After attending a spring 2014 training in conjunction with the Stories Worth Telling project, Allyson Criner Brown, associate director and Tellin’ Stories program manager at Teaching for Change, developed a standard template that both program participants and staff could use to flesh out and record the stories they had been previously sharing and exchanging on a more ad hoc basis verbally. After leading staff through a training on the fundamentals of a story, Criner Brown encouraged them to use the template to jot down details about the universal needs of their character, their body language and facial expressions, character traits that stand out, and other experiences and examples that make their stories come alive.
“Before the training, we struggled to turn the report of ‘what happened’ into a story, ”Criner Brown shared. “With the template, we emphasize that everything now has to be told from the viewpoint of one person.”
Once a month, she uses regular meeting time to give staff the opportunity to reflect upon and record a story using the template, which she is then able to use to create stories that are posted on Teaching for Change’s website. “It provided structure for everyone to be on the same page and to think about telling our story in the same way,” she said.
On the participant side, the storytelling template has been instrumental in allowing parents to have their voices heard on one of the organization’s current key issues: a grassroots campaign to modernize D.C.’s Orr Elementary School. Criner Brown and her staff led parents of the school through an activity using the same story templates that staff use, and the resulting testimonials (which were presented to D.C. Council members and the Education Committee) were moving accounts of the real life impact of the crumbling facilities. The parent stories were a key part of the campaign’s success, Criner Brown said—which has led to the Mayor more than doubling the previously allocated budget to modernize the school, and to $3 million being set aside to begin the planning process as quickly as the next fiscal year.