The power of stories

By Greg Whitby, 6 February 2019


Weekly Column from the Executive Director of Schools, Diocese of Parramatta

Acclaimed journalist and TV presenter Stan Grant has spent his career reporting on stories from around the globe, so it was a privilege for our school leaders to hear Stan share his own remarkable story. Having grown up in abject poverty in western NSW, Stan’s family had to move often for work. Despite having to change schools regularly, his fondest memories from childhood were the stories his grandparents told. Those stories inspired his love of reading.

Stan recounted how his mother would buy whatever second-hand books she could find – everything from Greek mythology to Hemingway and Steinbeck. These oral and written stories opened up new ideas and new pathways for Stan including the opportunity to study journalism at university. One of the key messages he shared was the importance of nurturing a love of stories in children. Having a love of stories not only allows children to tell their own story but it offers the gateway to literacy and learning.

Good storytelling is like good teaching – it is an art and as a science. We’re told that the science of storytelling has to do with the ‘feel-good hormones’ in our brain. These hormones like dopamine are triggered when we read, hear or see stories that get our attention and spark our imaginations.

Expert teachers are like master storytellers. They do not see the curriculum (lesson content) as a script that has to be followed rigidly. Expert teachers respond with imagination to the needs of learners and the teachable moments that occur every day. They present new knowledge to their students in exciting and challenging ways. They engender those feel-good hormones in classrooms – trust, motivation, empathy and joy.

Great teachers can turn straw into gold.

Greg Whitby AM
Executive Director of Schools – Diocese of Parramatta

Greg Whitby is the Executive Director of Schools - Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta
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