Story is a magical tool that can bring to your students exactly what they need or want at any time in your day, week, month or year. When my students need to laugh I find a story that brings us to belly laughing. When my students need to understand empathy, a story helps them look beyond their own needs to the needs of others. When my students need to learn a lifelong lesson, I find a story where we learn from the positive or negative choices of the characters. Story, whether it is bound with a beautiful cover or comes from the mouth of an 8 year old captivates all of us.
I want to share with you how a young, heroic young girl named Maya has helped change my students and I. Several years ago I met Maya as she entered our school in Grade 1. Maya has had to deal with the effects of a brain tumour all of her life. She has encountered the ill effects of chemotherapy and made hundreds of hospital visits that each time involved some kind of painful treatment. She has lost some mobility, has limited vision and struggles with learning new concepts. Yet despite all of those barriers to living a regular life she is this magical, bundle of positive energy that lights up a room. When you are around Maya you can’t help but smile and enjoy life.
I teach some very challenging students who have learned how to use aggression and violence as a way to deal with the struggles they face. Our first unit in our class this year was looking at heroes, both fictional superheroes and nonfictional everyday heroes. We established some criteria as to what makes a hero and have been examining a variety of characters and real people to determine if they will make it to our hero board. I told my class that they were going to be able to meet one of my heroes. They were all excited and made multiple predictions as to who that hero might be and what made them a hero to me. So on one quiet Thursday morning the call from the office came that our guests had arrived. I went down with our class receptionist and welcomed them. As you would expect, the excitement was at a peak as to who would walk through our classroom door. As Maya carefully and slowly made her way in to our circle area there was an absolute look of shock. How could this young girl be Mr. B’s heroine?
Over the next hour, Maya with the help of her Mom shared her story. The group was captivated as they went through a spectrum of emotions listening to the courageous story of Maya. Despite my knowing and hearing this story many times, the students noticed the tears in my eyes. By the time Maya was ready to leave, the boys had embraced her and made her an official part of our classroom.
Needless to say, the letter writing we did that afternoon was some of the most powerful I had experienced with this group of students.There are so many stories out there that can and need to be shared to help all of us become better people.